Eclipse viewed in Auckland

Fans flock to Stardome Observatory

AMY MAAS
Last updated 09:51 14/11/2012

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LATEST: Aucklanders' necks will be craned toward the sky to catch a glimpse of a partial solar eclipse this morning.

The solar eclipse - the first since the 1960s - won't be seen in New Zealand again until 2028 and an eclipse will not be seen in Auckland again until 2035.

By 9.30am about 350 people had gathered at Auckland's Stardome Observatory to view the eclipse, and live pictures are being posted to the website every 30 seconds.

They have telescopes with solar filters set up as well as special glasses to view the Sun.

"We have a lot of people outside just watching through their solar glasses and the solar telescopes we have set up," said Stardome's Jo Creagh.

"We've got another crowd inside the planetarium watching an explanation of the solar eclipse, why they happen and what's fascinating about them."

Creagh also warned anyone wanting to take in the eclipse to make sure they followed the correct safety guidelines when looking at the sun.

"Never look at the sun directly, because it will cause permanent blindness," she said.

"The safe option is to grab a pair of solar glasses or take a look through the solar telescope."

Today's eclipse started over Cairns, Australia, just after sunrise and will be visible over Auckland as a partial or 87 per cent eclipse, beginning at 9.18am, reaching maximum coverage at 10.28am and ending at 11.44am.

A fuller eclipse will be visible in Northland, with the best view - 89.4 per cent - at Cape Reinga where it will start at 9.35am.

An eclipse of the sun occurs when the moon passes directly between earth and the sun casting a shadow on the earth.

"Solar eclipses don't happen every New Moon because the Moon's orbit about Earth is tilted by five degrees relative to the Earth's orbit around the Sun," said Dr Grant Christie, Stardome astronomer.

"In most months the New Moon passes above or below the Sun so no eclipse occurs. But an eclipse will occur when the Moon happens to cross the plane of Earth's orbit close to times of New Moon."

The northern parts of Australia are the only land areas that experience the total eclipse.

For Auckland's large Indian community the eclipse is significant as it coincides with Diwali, the festival of light.

The eclipse also falls on the 64th birthday of the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, who will be in Wellington at the time.

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