Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Total Solar Eclipse and November star chart

By David Reneke

Your guide to the solar eclipse on 14 November, and your map of the night sky this month

A total eclipse of the Sun is arguably nature's most spectacular and awe-inspiring phenomenon. Australia will play host to such an event next week and all eyes will be on the horizon overlooking the Coral Sea in Tropical North Queensland as the total solar eclipse casts an incredible shadow across the region on November 14.

Port Douglas and Cairns will be the best places in the world to witness this natural phenomenon and well known Australian astronomer Dave Reneke, writer and publicist for Australasian Science magazine, will be on hand to record it all.

David has been personally invited by Cairns Council and Port Douglas Chamber of Commerce to travel north explaining the eclipse to visitors from all around the world during eclipse week and to visit local schools demonstrating safe solar viewing.

“I’ll be holding astronomy lectures each day, viewing the sky at night through telescopes, safe solar viewing lectures and demo’s in and around town, plus working as guest expert on ABC and commercial radio there,” Dave said. “It’s great way for my team and I to view this amazing sight. Very few natural events invoke the sort of feelings an eclipse does. You never want it to stop,” Dave said.

The eclipse starts at dawn in the very north of Australia, passing over Cairns then narrowly missing Norfolk Island. The eclipse track then crosses the Pacific Ocean without making landfall anywhere. All other parts of Australia will get to see the eclipse but not totality.

“You should see the Sun start to ‘disappear’ a little after 7am for most of Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart when the edge of the Moon and Sun first appear to touch,” Dave said. “The eclipse begins low in the eastern sky with most of the disc eaten up like a little Pac-Man by around 8.15am. Brisbane will catch 84% of the eclipse at 6.55am with Perth watching around 5.15am and Adelaide at 7.30am.

Total eclipses of the Sun in a particular area are rare and arguably nature's most spectacular and awe inspiring phenomenon. There has not been a total eclipse seen from mainland Australia since the South Australian eclipse of 4 December 2002. The next chance you’ll have won‘t be until 22 July 2028 over Sydney.

Dave warned about viewing the Sun without proper eye protection. “You will need special filtered glasses that reduce the Suns glare,” Dave said. “Under no circumstances use sunglass lenses, exposed photographic film, compact discs or smoked glass. These offer no protection and actually increase the danger of eye damage!”

During totality the sky becomes dark, confusing birds and other animals. You see stars in the sky and it gets strangely cooler. Street lights may come on as their sensors register the lack of light. The birds disappear from the trees and flowers have been known to close up, expecting nightfall. All around you the crowds begin to cheer and clap – that's when you know 'it's on'!

Just before and just after totality the disc of the Sun is glimpsed as a pinpoint of light through mountains and craters at the edge of the Moon. This 'diamond ring effect' is one of the highlights of a total eclipse. “Once in your life, this is an event not to be missed,” Dave said.” I saw this in 2002 and it was singularly the most incredible sight I’ve seen, I want to see it again!”

During totality the Sun's faint outer atmosphere, the corona, becomes, visible. This is one of Nature's greatest spectacles and the reason why many amateur astronomers travel to as many total eclipses of the Sun as they can. They also attract significant international interest from research scientists, photographers, eclipse tourists, and from ordinary people simply wanting to witness this incredible spectacle at least once in their lives.

For more information on the eclipse visit Dave’s website www.davidreneke.com. The website for Port Douglas events is: www.portdouglaseclipsefestival.com.

Sydney Observatory