Residents of Australia will get their second solar eclipse in six months on May 9–10, when the Moon lies between the Sun and the Earth. 2012's Australian eclipse was total, while this year's will be partial (but guaranteed to be stunning nonetheless).
Editor's note: Slooh Space Camera, with commentary by Astronomy magazine's Bob Berman, will broadcast a free, real-time view of the annular solar eclipse from Australia. Viewers can capture a first look of the eclipse on Slooh.com, Thursday, May 9, starting at 5:30 p.m. EDT (21h30m UT).
An eclipse occurs when the Sun, the Moon, and Earth align (in that order, with our satellite in the middle). If they do so while the Moon is closer than average to Earth, observers will witness a total eclipse. Sometimes, though, its location in its orbit makes the Moon more distant than normal at the time of a line-up, as it is during this May's eclipse. Its distance makes it appear smaller in the sky and prevents its shadow from covering the Sun's whole disk. Thus, eclipse viewers will see a ring of sunlight, known as the "annulus" in the sky during this "annular eclipse."
The annular path begins at sunrise May 10 in Western Australia and crosses the Northern Territory. Those lucky enough to be on the path of annularity when the shadow sweeps next through Queensland northwest of Cairns will enjoy more than four minutes of annularity.
In a few spots on Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, observers will be able to see the annular eclipse before it passes into a landless part of the Pacific Ocean. Those near but not on the path of totality can still view a partial eclipse.