Thousands of spectators were treated to a rare hybrid solar eclipse on Thursday which plunged part of Australia’s northwest coast into brief midday darkness.
The remote tourist town of Exmouth, with fewer than 3,000 residents, was touted as one of the best vantage points in Australia to see the eclipse, which also crossed remote parts of Indonesia and East Timor.
An international crowd had been gathering for days, camping in tents and trailers on a red, dusty plain on the edge of town with cameras and other viewing equipment pointed skyward.
Nasa astronomer Henry Throop was among those at Exmouth cheering loudly in the darkness, as the temperature briefly dropped 5C.
‘Isn’t it incredible? This is so fantastic,’ he said. ‘It was mind-blowing. It was so sharp and it was so bright. You could see the corona around the Sun there.
‘It’s only a minute long, but it really felt like a long time. There’s nothing else you can see which looks like that. It was just awesome. Spectacular.
‘And then you could see Jupiter and Mercury and to be able to see those at the same time during the day – even seeing Mercury at all is pretty rare. So that was just awesome.’
Eclipses occur twice a year, but in different forms. Today’s event was a particularly rare hybrid solar eclipse, meaning it moved from a total eclipse, where the Moon completely blocks the Sun, to an annular eclipse – also known as a ‘ring of fire’ eclipse – where the Sun’s corona forms a dazzling ring around the Moon.
Julie Copson, who travelled more than 600miles north from the Australian west coast port city of Fremantle to Exmouth, said the phenomenon left her skin tingling.
‘I feel so emotional, like I could cry,’ said Ms Copson. ‘The colour changed and [I could see] the corona and solar flares.
‘It was very strong and the temperature dropped so much.’
In Indonesia’s capital, hundreds went to the Jakarta Planetarium to see the partial eclipse that was obscured by clouds.
Azka Azzahra, 21, came with her sister and friends to get a closer look by using the telescopes with hundreds of other visitors.
‘I am still happy even though it is cloudy,’ said Ms Azzahra. ‘It is good to see how people with high enthusiasm come here to see the eclipse, because it is rare.’
Hybrid solar eclipses are indeed rare – the next one will not be seen until 2031, mainly travelling across the Pacific but visible in Central and South America – with a partial eclipse also visible in North America.
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