Solar Spectacle in Far North Queensland

November 14, 2012 | Current Events, Interesting Facts

Palm Cove, Australia (Photo: Ian Hitchcock - GETTY IMAGES)

This day has been a total solar spectacle for more than 60,000 people who travelled to Queensland, Australia to witness a rare event.

On Tuesday, November 14, 2012, thousands of people gathered along the coastline of Cairns and Port Douglas in far north Queensland to watch the full solar eclipse which started at 6:45 am Sydney time.  It was described as an amazing, incredible and breathtaking phenomenon.

Full solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the Earth and the Sun causing moments of darkness in some parts of the world.

According to Dr Stuart Ryder from the Australian Astronomical Observatory, the moon took an hour to pass and cross the sun’s path. As a result of this movement, the sun was concealed or hidden and this created a moony night during those few minutes.  It was also observed that some animals like birds fell asleep during the phenomenon.

Watching from hot air balloons (Photo: Marc McCormack)

The sun is 400 times farther and wider than the moon. The eclipse shadow of 150 km wide started in Kakadu National Park  in Northern Territory and moved eastward across the Gulf of Carpentaria then to Queensland’s far north.

Hotels in the area were occupied by tourists, professional and amateur astronomers from Asia, U.S. and Europe.  Some of the spectators were on hot air balloons, sailboats and even aboard cruise liners on the water of Great Barrier Reef.  People looked to the sky wearing the special eclipse eye glasses for protection.

Some witnesses described the temporary darkness as a glimpse to the end of the world or even to the beginning of the Ice Age.

According to Hiroaki Kondo, a Japanese visitor who made four charter flights to make it to Cairns to see the amazing eclipse, “Everything was so surreal.”

To the Indigenous Group, the event was considered sacred and had religious meaning to them.

Duane Hamacher, an Indigenous astronomer said that in the Aboriginal cultures the moon is a male and the sun is a female. The sun is jealous so she grabs the moon and tries to kill him. The moon asks the spirits to expose and support the sky to save him.

For those who missed this rare event, the next full solar eclipse in Australia will be in 2028.

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