Solar eclipse to block out sun tomorrow

By Josh Martin

Auckland Stardome astronomer Dr Grant Christie says the eclipse will take a "bite out of the sun". Photo / Brett Phibbs
Auckland Stardome astronomer Dr Grant Christie says the eclipse will take a "bite out of the sun". Photo / Brett Phibbs

Tomorrow morning will present a rare opportunity for novice and professional astronomers alike - a partial eclipse of the sun that won't be repeated in New Zealand skies for another 16 years.

It occurs when the moon passes directly between Earth and the sun, casting a shadow on the Earth.

The effect will be most impressive in the north, as more of the sun will appear to be covered by the moon.

Aucklanders will see the effect reach 87 percent coverage and the sun will appear as a brilliant bright crescent, while the east coast of Northland will see 91 percent.

The next eclipse with similar coverage will not occur over New Zealand until 2028, and Auckland will not see a better solar eclipse until 2035.

The shadow of the Moon creates a 180km wide path of totality that travels from west to east across the Pacific, but the northern parts of Australia are the only land areas that experience the total eclipse.

Thousands of eclipse enthusiasts will be congregating in Queensland, while others will be viewing the eclipse from cruise liners and aircraft positioned along the path of totality across the Pacific.

Stardome's honorary astronomer Dr Grant Christie said: "Solar eclipses don't happen every new moon because the moon's orbit about earth is tilted by about five degrees relative to the earth's orbit around the sun. In most months the new moon passes above or below the sun so no eclipse occurs. But an eclipse will occur when the moon happens to cross the plane of earth's orbit close to times of new moon."

From Auckland, the partial eclipse will reach maximum coverage at 10:28am and end at 11.44am. These times will vary at a bit in other centres.

The Stardome at One Tree Hill will be open to the public in the morning, providing safe viewing of the eclipse through the special telescopes.

Dr Christie warned that viewing the sun directly without a safe solar viewer was very dangerous and can cause permanent blindness.

- NZ Herald

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