Total Eclipse AUS 2012

     In November of 2012, Becky (my wife) and I had decided to witness the 2012 Total Solar Eclipse in Queensland, Australia.  In fact,  a total eclipse was to be visible from Cairns, Australia beginning just after sunrise on 14th November 2012.

Cairns, Australia area map

     The 2012 total eclipse was seen along the coast from a 140 km wide path. The path crossed the coast at an angle so that the 140km wide path covered a 200km swathe of coastline between Innisfail in the south to  Cape Tribulation in the north, (Imaged below).

Total Eclipse Path; Image provided by Jay Anderson with a “weather station” map

        A total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth. Total solar eclipses can only occur at some New Moon’s but they don’t occur every New Moon because the Moon’s orbit is inclined 6 degrees to the Earth’s obital plane. Eclipses only occur when the Moon passes through the Earth’s orbital plane at New Moon otherwise the shadow misses the Earth.

Image of Total Solar Eclipse

     The total part of the eclipse lasted for two spectacular minutes.  Becky and I chose to witness the eclipse on Clifton Beach near Palm Cove.   The tide came in as the eclipse progressed.  We set up the telescope and camera on high dry ground, above the upper tidal zone.  To avoid the vegetation, we were required to set up on a saltwater crocodile pathway to the ocean. It was Becky’s job to watch for giant saltwater-crocs.

Just before Sunrise on Solar Eclipse day in 2012 Australia.

     Pictured above, sunrise was at 5:34am.    A few minutes after sunrise, the eclipse began. The Sun first went through a partial eclipse that lasted for about an hour before the total eclipse began. During this time, there was great danger of eye damage, so Becky and I brought eye filters with us.  However, we were unable to see and record of the first part of the Eclipse, (First Contact), because the clouds were in the way, (pictured below). The whole eclipse lasted for about two hours.

Just after sunrise on Solar Eclipse day in 2012 Australia. (Time of first contact).

       The dark disk of the Moon ingressed upon the Sun’s disk from the west which was the top when viewing the rising Sun in the east.  The appearance of the first half of the eclipse up to the beginning of totality was not recorded by us, because it was behind the clouds, (pictured above).. 

A partial eclipse without detail.  Morning of the Total Eclipse 2012.

     The partial eclipse took 54 minutes, (from first contact to second contact). As totality approached, the solar crescent became very thin. Though thin, it was still too dangerous to look at without any eye protection (pictured below).

Becky using eye protection during the partial portion of the Total Eclipse in Australia 2012

       A minute or so before the eclipse, the lunar shadow covered the sky. The ambient light dimmed dramatically, reduced by a factor of about a thousand.  The Moon’s shadow began to move right across to cover the whole of the sky. When the front edge of the shadow reached the Sun, the diamond ring formed and the total eclipse began (pictured below). The diamond ring is a bright ring of light surrounding the dark lunar disk with one dazzling bright white point of light.

Total Eclipse 2012 on the coast of Australia, north of Cairns.  Photo taken with filter and zoom lens.

     I was unable to capture the first Diamond Ring, (second contact). During the Eclipse, it didn’t go completely dark, more like a very deep twilight. Becky and I took off our filters.  Our eyes  quickly adjusted to the new low light level. As our eyes adjusted, the Sun’s corona will became visible. The corona is composed of very hot electrically charged gas – a plasma. The coronal gas has a temperature of about a million degrees and it stretches millions of kilometers out into space. The charged particles are distributed along and reveal the Sun’s magnetic field lines similar to the way you might have used iron filings to reveal the field of a magnet.

     The corona appeared to grow. This was just an illusion caused by two factors. As the umbra replaces the penumbra in the sky around the Sun, the background sky darkens rapidly allowing the faint corona to be more visible. The outer corona is fainter than the inner corona. As our eyes quickly adapted to the dark mainly due to the dilation of our pupils, they became more sensitive so we were able to see fainter parts of the outer corona, so it seemed to grow.

The second diamond ring, (third contact).


     As totality ended, a diamond ring dazzled us as it seemed to explode from the opposite side of the Moon to the first diamond ring, (pictured above). This one seemed much brighter than the first because our eyes were adapted to the dark. The appearance of the second diamond ring was our signal to put on our eye protection on again.

The Partial Eclipse after the third contact at the 2012 Total Solar Eclipse in Australia near Cairns.

     November isn’t the sunniest month of the year but nor is it the cloudiest. It is in the build up but definitely before the start of the monsoon. Humidity causes cloud build up during the days. Afternoon and evening showers and thunderstorms are common. Fortunately mornings are typically fine and sunny along the coast but with some scattered clouds off the coast almost every morning.  Luckily, this is what Becky and I experienced during the Eclipse.

The Partial Eclipse after the third contact at the 2012 Total Solar Eclipse in Australia near Cairns.

     During our visit to Australia for the Total Eclipse, Becky and I came across several people believing that this was the beginning of the Earth’s apocalypse.  My reaction: For any claims of disaster or dramatic changes in 2012, where is the science? Where is the evidence? There is none, and for all the fictional assertions, whether they are made in books, movies, documentaries or over the Internet, we cannot change that simple fact. There is no credible evidence for any of the assertions made in support of unusual events taking place in November 2012.

My 10 inch solar telescope and camera set up to see the morning 2012 Total Solar Eclipse on the Clifton Beach near Cairn, Australia. 
The Partial Eclipse after the third contact at the 2012 Total Solar Eclipse in Australia near Cairns.

     New Moon occurred at 06:38.  A high tide of about 3m occurred mid-morning (9:06am) on the day of the eclipse in Cairns region. Tide height during totality was probably be about 2.3m. So the tide was low at 3am, about the time, Becky and I got out of bed. High tide actually came-in during the eclipse and maximum high-tide occurred about an hour after the total eclipse ended.

Looking south along Clifton Beach during the Total Solar Eclipse of 2012 in Australia.  Becky is wearing solar glasses as the crowd and eclipse winds down.

     The event was all over by 7:40 am, (fourth contact).

The Partial Eclipse after the third contact at the 2012 Total Solar Eclipse in Australia near Cairns. (Within ten minutes of the fourth contact).

After the 2012 Cairns eclipse, the next opportunity to see a total eclipse in Australia is from remote Exmouth, W.A. in 2023. In July 2028, a total eclipse will cross the whole continent starting in the Kimberley crossing many regional towns and centers and finally being visible across much of Sydney.  We plan to be there!

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