eclipse Total Solar Eclipse, Australia, 14 November eclipse

eclipse sky Morning sky at totality as seen from Cairns on 14 November 2012, 6:38 am (click on image to embiggen)

On November 14 2012, just on Sunrise, there will be an total eclipse of the Sun visible from Northern Australia. While only a few places in Northern Australia will see totality, most of Australia will see a significant partial eclipse, with between 60%-90% of the suns disk being obscured north of Canberra. A partial eclipse of the sun is one that does not cover the whole of the Sun's disk. This is not as spectacular as a full solar eclipse, but will be incredible in it's own way. For example, in areas where there is greater than 60% solar disk coverage, there will be significant darkening and cooling, and the shadows of leaves will show crescent sun effects. This is also the first significant solar eclipse in Australia since 2002.

The total eclipse will be observed only in a few parts of mostly remote Australia except where it crosses the Queensland coast (but it's still pretty far away eg. Cairns, see Table I), but most cities will see a partial eclipse with NT, QLD and NSW sites seeing the most coverage of the sun (about 90-80%) See Table II. While there is a wealth of information about the total aspect of the eclipse, there is less information about what those places that experience a partial eclipse will see (or when), this page is aimed at them. More details about the total eclipse can be found in the links section.

The path of the eclipse can be seen here. The blue line shows the path of totality. Image taken from the interactive eclipse map provided by NASA here.

Watching the eclipse

Do NOT look directly at the Sun! Do not use so called filters. Over exposed film, smoked glass etc. used as filters is NOT, repeate NOT safe. Never use eyepiece filters for telescopes. These can crack at inopportune times and destroy your eyesight.

One good 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, which will reveal the changes to the Suns outline quite satisfactorily. A card with a 1 mm hole should be projected onto a surface (eg white paper, or a white wall) about 20 cm away, a 5 mm hole should be projected onto a surface 1 to 1.5 meters away. You need to create a reasonable sized image, so you need a fair distance between the pinhole and the surface you project the image on. This will mean the image is going to be fairly dim, so you also need some sort of sun shield to keep in image in shadow. I use the longest available postpac postal tube, with alfoil over the top (and the pinhole in the alfoil), and wide ring of stiff cardboard to ensure that the image of the sun is projected into a dark area. This link will show you several methods to make pinhole projection systems.


You an also purchase eclipse pinhole projection systems from a variety of optical stores.

As well, there are a number of safe solar projection systems you can make with binoculars and small telescopes. This link will show you how to make safe solar viewing and telescope projection systems.

My step by step guide for making a cheap binocular projection system is here My telescope projection system is here, and how to know where to point your telescope when you can’t look through the viewfinder.

Acceptable filters are specially coated filters that may be purchased from Astronomy suppliers (such as the premade Solar Eclipse viewing glasses or special filter material you can cut to size yourself), or number 14 welders filters. Again, these should be used with special care so as not to expose your eyes directly to the Sun by accident. However, the Sun is relatively small when unmagnified, and it won't look that spectacular (although the Sun with a huge notch out of it is pretty amazing, it just won't loook like the telescope images).

Binocular projection setup If you have a pair of binoculars, and you are not afraid to expose them to the heat of the Sun, then try making a binocular projection system. I have used this on an old pair of binoculars several times, and they are fine, and produced good views of the transit of Mercury and a partial eclipse, but it's probably a bad idea to use it on very expensive binoculars, as there is a small but real chance the heat will crack the lenses or mess with the coatings. You will need to have your binoculars mounted on a tripod for stability, many modern binoculars come with an attachment point for tripods.

If you have a telescope, use either the special telescope aperture filters, or the much cheaper telescope projection system as described here.

Remember, except during totality, do NOT look directly at the Sun, as irrepairable eye damage or blindness can occur.

Where to see the eclipse

Table I: Towns in the Path of Totality, times NOT corrected for daylight saving
Town State Time Zone First Contact Mid eclipse Last contact
Cairns QLD AEST 5.45 6.38 7.40
Mossman QLD AEST 5.44 6.38 7.40
Port Douglas QLD AEST 5.44 6.37 7.39

There are only a small selection of towns in the path of totality, but they are the ones with the longest eclipse duration and probably the best weather. More sites are here.

Table II: Cities outside the path of Totality
City State Time Zone First Contact Mid Eclipse % Sun Covered Last Contact
Adelaide SA ACDST 6.42 7.33 52% 8:22
Alice Springs NT ACST 5:27 6:16 73% 7:10
Brisbane QLD AEST 5:56 6:54 83% 7:58
Canberra ACT AEDST 7:10 8:03 62% 9.02
Darwin NT ACST 5:17 (below horizon) 6:06 (just below horizon) 98% 7:00
Hobart TAS AEDST 6:55 7:44 45% 8:36
Melbourne VIC AEDST 7:15 8:05 53% 8:59
Perth WA WAST 4:21 (below horizon) 5:00 (just below horizon) 40% 5:41
Rockhampton QLD AEST 5:51 6:48 90% 7:52
Townsville QLD AEST 5:47 6:42 96% 7:43
Sydney NSW AEDST 7:06 8:01 68% 9:02

The eclipse occurs as the Sun is rising. In Darwin and Perth maxium eclipse occurs with the Sun just below the horizon. The cities listed in Table II are not the only places the eclipse can be seen, but will give you a general idea of the start/finish time in your area. There is an interactive eclipse calculator to show how the eclipse will look from any location here.


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Created: Monday, 29 October 2012, 11:22:32
Last Updated: Monday, 29 October, 11:22:32