Eclipse underway

By Joseph Aldridge


Tauranga astronomers are prepping their telescopes for a rare event that will see the light of the sun significantly dimmed.

About 10.30am today the moon will pass in front of the sun, throwing the Bay into a sort of twilight.

The solar eclipse will be tracked by the high-powered telescopes of the Tauranga Astronomical Society who will be displaying live pictures of the eclipse on a large screen at their clubrooms at Ferguson Park.

Society vice-president Stuart Murray said the moon would start crossing in front of the sun around 9.18am, but would reach its point of most coverage (about 87 per cent) at 10.28am.

``What we'd like to see during the period of partial eclipse with a big telescope with a special filter on the front of it will be the periods of time when the actual sun will be shining through the mountain ridges of the moon. I've never seen that before.''

Those gathered at the Astronomical Society will be hoping for a clear day so they can get a good look at the eclipse, but the dimmed light will be noticeable even if the the day is overcast.

``If it's cloudy the light will still go and people will wonder what's happened if they are not aware that it's an eclipse. They'll be wondering why everything is so dim at half past ten on a Wednesday morning.''

In any case, people should be very careful not to stare at the sun with unprotected eyes or they may damage their eyesight, Mr Murray said.

``Care is needed, particularly with children who don't have much sense in that respect.''

Sunglasses do not offer enough protection and the Astronomical Society will be selling cheap sun vision filters, similar in darkness to welders' goggles, on the day.

Also on offer at the clubrooms in Ferguson Park will be live pictures from Cairns, Australia where the sun will be totally eclipsed by the moon.

``The sun will be obscured totally and that's when you can see flashes of solar activity from the sun.''

Not normally seen because of the brightness of the sun, a corona is an atmosphere surrounding the sun caused by loops of plasma.

``The interesting thing is that the diameter of the moon obscures the sun exactly. It's just one of those odd occurrences.''

The pictures from Cairns will start arriving at about 9am and the total eclipse will occur at 9.40.

Adults will be charged $2 to view the live pictures at the Astronomical Society and children will not be charged.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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