Australian solar eclipse: Friday 10 May 2013
ON FRIDAY MORNING, an annular solar eclipse will be visible from parts of Australia, for the last time until 2035.
An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon, in a distant part of its orbit around our planet, covers a large portion of the Sun’s area as seen from the Earth, hence a ring or ‘annulus’ is left around its edge. This is not to be confused with a total eclipse, the last of which was visible from Australia in November 2012. This annular eclipse is the first to be visible from Australia or New Zealand since 1999.
The only sizable town that lies on the path of annularity – where a complete viewing of the eclipse is possible – is Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory. The Musgrave Roadhouse, north of Laura in Queensland, is also suggested as a vantage point. Those near Newman, Western Australia are expected to see a donut-shaped annular eclipse sunrise, while other parts of Australia will see a partial solar eclipse.
From Tennant Creek the eclipse will begin at 6:55am. reach its zenith at 8:07am and end at 9:33am.
Regions of Australia outside of the main eclipse path will see a partial solar eclipse – a ‘bite’ taken out of the Sun. The maximum of the eclipse in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane can be seen at 8:52am, 8:57am and 8:58am respectively (AEDT). Note that the Sun will not be completely covered, so it is important that you do not look directly into the sun at any time during the eclipse.
The path of the annular eclipse over northern Australia and Tennant Creek. (Credit: Andy Chong/2013 Australasian Sky Guide/Powerhouse Museum)
How to view an annular solar eclipse
Stuart Ryder from the Australian Astronomical Observatory says that while the annular eclipse is a novelty and a great photo opportunity, it is no comparison to a total solar eclipse.
“That tiny ring of uncovered Sun wipes out the dramatic effect of a total solar eclipse,” says Stuart. “The eye simply adjusts to the fading light over an hour or so, and most people on the eclipse path would not even be aware an eclipse was happening above them if it wasn’t in the news.”
Stuart warns that because it will not be completely covered, the public should not look directly into the sun at any time during the eclipse. The safest way to view the eclipse is to use projection. This involves creating a pinhole in a piece of paper or plastic, which is then attached to a tripod and adjusted until the image of the Sun can be seen on a screen.
Watching for ring-like shadows on the ground as the sun shines through gaps in leaves is also an effective way of viewing the eclipse.
When to see the solar eclipse at its maximum
*All times are local
Perth – 6:36am (Sun will be below the horizon, so sunrise, at 6:54am, is the best time to see it)
Darwin – 8:07am
Adelaide – 8:15am
Melbourne – 8:52am
Canberra – 8:55am
Sydney – 8:57am
Brisbane – 8:58am
Hobart – 8:59am