Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Solar eclipse guide and May 2013 star chart

By David Reneke

Your guide to the night sky this month, and details of this month's solar eclipse.

Get set for a rare and amazing sky event this month. Australia will witness one of the most awe-inspiring sights in nature as an "annular eclipse" of the Sun takes place early on the morning of May 10. Few people who witness eclipses fail to be deeply moved by the experience.

An annular eclipse of the Sun, when a fiery solar ring remains around the Moon’s silhouette, will sweep right across Australia and into the Pacific Ocean. Weather permitting, everyone in Australia, except for the western third of Western Australia, will be able to see a partial or full eclipse.

Australasian Science columnist Dave Reneke said the Sun will look like a half-eaten apple with a big chunk taken out of it as the Moon glides slowly in front. “On the east coast we’ll see the eclipse start at 7.50am with mid-eclipse around an hour later. Adelaide has mid-eclipse at 8.15am and Perth just catches the tail end at sunrise,” he said.

It’s not safe to look at the eclipse directly or through a normal telescope. Special filters must be used throughout the entire event. Binoculars can be used safely only if they are used to project an image down on the ground or across on a wall.

“The easiest and cheapest way to observe this event is by making a pinhole in a stiff square of cardboard and projecting the image of the Sun onto a flat surface. You are basically making a simple pinhole camera,” Dave added.

For more information on the eclipse and where to get solar glasses visit Dave’s website www.davidreneke.com.

Star chart provided by Sydney Observatory