If you happen to find yourself along Australia’s Great Barrier Reef around sunrise tomorrow, Nature will offer up one more spectacle in addition to the clear waters and colorful fish: a total solar eclipse. It’ll last a couple of minutes before the Moon’s shadow heads across the vast open waters of the South Pacific.
A total solar eclipse takes place when the new Moon passes directly between Earth and Sun, covering the solar disk and briefly turning day to night. That allows the Sun’s faint outer atmosphere, the corona, to shine with a pearly glow around the Moon. But the Moon’s orbital path is tilted a bit with respect to the Sun, so most months the Moon passes a little above or below the Sun, so there’s no eclipse at all.
This eclipse is an especially good one because it happens around the time the Moon is closest to Earth. That makes the Moon look a bit bigger, so the eclipse lasts a little longer — a maximum of about four minutes.
But the path of the eclipse isn’t very good for skywatchers. About the only inhabited land it crosses is northern Australia. Most of the rest of Australia, all of New Zealand, and parts of Antarctica will see a partial eclipse.
Those of us in the United States are out of luck — we won’t see any eclipse at all. Several web sites will broadcast all or part of the eclipse live, though. The total phase of the eclipse begins around 2:35 p.m. Central Time and ends a bit more than three hours later.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2012
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