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‘Quite amazing’: Australia’s next solar eclipse is the first of five in 15 years

Only four solar eclipses have been visible in Australia in the past 100 years – but we are about to see the first of five in the next 15 years.

On Thursday at 11.29am AWST, for just a minute, the Sun will disappear off Ningaloo, on the coast of Western Australia, making it the first total eclipse in more than a decade.

A total solar eclipse happens when the Moon passes between Earth and the Sun, casting a shadow. There will be different types of eclipses visible around Australia (see details for your city below).

Only Exmouth will see it in totality and the rest of Australia probably won’t notice the partial solar eclipse, said Dr Tanya Hill, senior curator of astronomy at the Melbourne Planetarium. 

An expected 25,000 people will flock to Exmouth from all over the world, to experience 58 seconds of total darkness.

What makes this solar eclipse special is that it is a “hybrid”.

“Eclipses are all about shadows,” Dr Hill told The New Daily.

With this eclipse, and thanks to the Earth’s curve, there will be an annular eclipse and a total eclipse, making the hybrid eclipse.

On April 20, there will be an annular eclipse because the Moon is further away from Earth. An annular eclipse is when the edges of the Sun remain visible.

A total eclipse, when the Sun is completely blocked out, will then be seen when the shadow reaches northern Western Australia.

Other states

Although only Exmouth, Timor-Leste [East Timor] and Indonesia will see the solar eclipse in totality, the rest of Australia will see a partial eclipse, meaning the Sun won’t be totally blocked out.

The percentage of the Sun obscuring the Moon will depend on where you are. For example, in Darwin, 81 per cent of the Sun will be blocked out during the partial eclipse.

Eclipse times for the capital cities:

  • Perth: 11.20am (AWST), 71 per cent of the Sun will be covered
  • Adelaide: 1.30pm (ACST), 21 per cent of the Sun will be covered
  • Darwin: 1.52pm (ACST), 81 per cent of the Sun will be covered
  • Hobart: 2.06pm (AEST), 5 per cent of the Sun will be covered
  • Melbourne: 2.09pm (AEST), 11 per cent of the Sun will be covered
  • Canberra: 2.22pm (AEST), 10 per cent of the Sun will be covered
  • Sydney: 2.28pm (AEST), 10 per cent of the Sun will be covered
  • Brisbane: 2.44pm (AEST), 16 per cent of the Sun will be covered.

Why Australia’s upcoming eclipses are special

Dr Hill said it was “quite amazing” Australia is about to witness five solar eclipses in 15 years, when there were so few for the past century.

Astronomical Society of Australia (ASA) president Professor John Lattanzio agreed Australia is pretty “lucky” to have five eclipses coming up.

Dr Hill won’t be making the trip to Exmouth to witness the total solar eclipse, but she is looking forward to the next one in Sydney in 2028.

In 2028, the eclipse will be seen in the Kimberley in Western Australia, the Northern Territory, south-west Queensland and New South Wales – it is passing through Sydney.

The solar eclipse in 2030 will cross over South Australia, north-west NSW and southern Queensland.

In 2037, southern Western Australia, southern Northern Territory and western Queensland, including Brisbane and the Gold Coast, will experience a total solar eclipse.

In 2038, the final solar eclipse will pass through central Western Australia, South Australia, and along the NSW/Victoria border.

Totality is something Dr Hill hopes everyone can experience in their lives, and beyond the shadows and the geometry, eclipses represent something really simple and pure to her.

“After what we’ve all been through collectively in the last little while, I think remembering we’re part of something so much grander is a great message,” she said.

Pictured are the five solar eclipses Australia will see in the next 15 years.

Five eclipses will be observable in Australia, the first being on April 20. Photo: Astronomical Association of Queensland/Terry Cuttle/ Google Earth

Blinding light

You should never look directly at the Sun, eclipse or not – anything more than a glimpse can potentially lead to serious damage.

Dr Hessom Razavi from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists and Lions Eye Institute says eclipses can lull us into a false sense of security.

“When it’s close to a total eclipse, a lot of the visible light will be obscured or blocked by the Moon,” he told The New Daily.

“But there’s still wavelengths of radiation that are not visible to us humans, but still damage the eye.”

Looking at an eclipse without protection can lead to loss of vision or blindness. He said several people damaged their eyes by looking the last time there was a solar eclipse in the US.

Using regular sunglasses won’t protect your eyes, nor will using a phone or mirror to stare at it.

Fortunately, there is one way to look at the Sun safely – eclipse glasses.

For eclipse glasses to be safe, they need to purchased from a reputable vendor and they cannot be damaged.

Dr Razavi said the glasses still carry some risks and parents should be particularly vigilant with their children on April 20.

The glasses or packaging should bear the safety certification number: ISO 12312-2.

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