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A solar eclipse darkens southern Australia’s skies

While a ring of sunlight is visible to the penguins in Antarctica, human observers in southern Australia will be able to watch the Moon block most of the Sun’s face April 29.

RELATED TOPICS: SOLAR ECLIPSE | OBSERVING
An annular solar eclipse occurs April 29.

Observers in southern Australia will witness the Moon “take a bite” out of the Sun on April 29, just as those in Europe saw January 4, 2011.

Hinrich Bäsemann

The first solar eclipse of 2014 occurs April 29. This eclipse is an annular type, which occurs when the Moon stands in front of the Sun from Earth’s viewpoint but lies too far from us to block our star fully. Thus, earthbound witnesses see a ring of sunlight around the Moon.

This annular eclipse will glance Antarctica briefly, and only hardy observers in the frozen continent will see the ring of sunlight. But observers in southern Australia will witness a mostly covered Sun. Residents along Australia’s southern coast will see the Moon block about 60 percent of our star in late afternoon, while observers in Tasmania will see a 70-percent-blocked Sun. The partial eclipse begins around 1:15 p.m. for Perth and 4 p.m. for Melbourne (both local time). Maximum coverage of the Sun occurs at 2:42 p.m. for Perth and 5:07 p.m. for Melbourne.

“The farther east you are, the lower in the sky the Sun will be during eclipse maximum,” says Astronomy Senior Editor Richard Talcott. “So those in Perth will have a nice view with our star about 32° above the western horizon. Melbourne observers will see the Sun skim just 5° above the western horizon.”

Observers in mid- and northern Australia can watch the Moon take a petite bite out of the Sun — between 20 and 40 percent of our star’s disk.

Eclipse viewing tips

  • Don't view this event without eye protection. The Sun shines brightly enough to damage your retinas if you view it directly. Use only approved eclipse glasses, solar filters, or #14 welder’s glass.
  • Arrive at your viewing site an hour or more before the eclipse begins, especially if you want to photograph the event.
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