Thousands of stargazers witnessed one of nature’s most spectacular phenomena in Australia Thursday, as the moon blocked out the sun to reveal a dazzling halo. The eclipse was seen in full across northern Australia, while Sydney witnessed a partial event with less than 20% of the sun’s surface blocked.
During a total solar eclipse, the moon, called the sun’s corona, covers most of the sun’s disc and dims structures around it. During the rare celestial event, which occurs once every ten years, spectators can see these dark structures using special solar filters or other instruments.
Professional astronomers and amateur cosmologists flocked to a remote part of Western Australia Thursday to witness a total solar eclipse, with the moon blocking out the sun for 58 seconds. In Exmouth, on Australia’s northwest tip, stargazers parked their caravans, pitched telescopes, and donned protective glasses to watch the moon seemingly creep across the sun’s surface before the totality.
According to witnesses, the totality occurred at 11:29:48 local time – bringing darkness and a spectral calm. Then, less than a minute later, the dusty outback was again bathed in light as the eclipse began to fade.
It was the first of five total eclipses over Australia in the next 15 years, starting in July 2028.
Scientists and amateur astronomers gathered on several continents to view the event. NASA said more than 80 percent of the sun’s surface was covered in totality at Darwin and Broome, while Alice Springs and Cairns saw a partial eclipse.
Skygazers gathered at Exmouth, on Australia’s northwest tip, to view the eclipse
About 20,000 people descended on Exmouth, on the west coast of Australia, to see a rare solar eclipse that plunged the region into darkness for 58 seconds. The small town was billed as one of the best vantage points in the country to see the phenomenon.
Astronomers rushed to the area days before to set up telescopes and other equipment. The town, only about 3,000 people, was flooded with tourists who piled into campsites on the edge of the red, dusty plain.
They were joined by Solar Wind Sherpas, a group of astronomers who travel around the world with piles of equipment to study the planet’s whirling space winds. The head sherpa, Shadia Habbal, from the University of Hawaii, says her team will study “fast bursts of energy” in the sun’s corona.
Sherpas, who hail from countries including Germany, the Czech Republic, and the US, will be in awe of the phenomenon in Indonesia, Australia, and East Timor.
Cuttle, a renowned eclipse chaser who has logged 24 totalities in his career, told Guardian Australia the event was his favorite. He has been observing solar eclipses since 1976.
The next total solar eclipse is scheduled for July 22, 2028, and will be visible from much of the nation. It will also be visible in parts of West Papua and East Timor.