Eclipse viewers turn out in force

Last updated 12:17 14/11/2012
A man in Wellington's Civic Square uses a special viewer to observe today's partial solar eclipse.

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Wellingtonians gathered in the sunshine at observatories and telescopes across the city to observe this morning's partial solar eclipse.

The capital and the northern North Island were expected to have the best weather in the country for viewing today's eclipse.

More than 600 people watched the stellar moment at Carter Observatory, which had set up telescopes fitted with solar lenses and a live-stream of the moon's transit across the sun.

Petone resident Renata Baleikasavu decided her daughter, Tyler, 8, should have a ''home school'' day, to go to the observatory in the Botanic Garden.

Tyler had been learning about the galaxy, and her mum wanted her to see the solar system in action.

''She's been wanting a telescope and then we saw the big one inside, and she said, can I have one like that?''

The cafe manager said both she and her daughter had learned a lot from the observatory astronomers.

''I've been realising how little we [on Earth] really are.''

Carter Observatory marketing and communications manager Dawn Muir said the day had been great and the public turnout was fantastic.

''It's been a busy day, but it was wonderful to see people camping out here with their solar glasses on.''

Ms Muir said the most rewarding moment of her morning had been helping an elderly woman up the stairs to take a peek through their historic Thomas Cooke telescope.

''She said I've always wanted to see this - [the eclipse] was a bucket list item for her.''

The Wellington Astronomical Society had also set up a telescope on the bridge in Civic Square with a screened funnel so the public could safely watch the event.

Society president John Talbot said the public response had been tremendous, and a lot of international visitors had stopped to find out what was going on.

"We'll be measuring the minimum point, which is the angular distance between the moon and the sun, what time it occurred and how close the predictions were," Mr Talbot said.

"That's real science."


Dozens of keen astronomers lined up on the City to Sea wall to get the best view of the eclipse - all looking through special pinhole cameras or special viewing glasses to protect their eyes.

A special telescope with a funnel out the side was also set up so people could view.

Eight-year-old Alex Telfar brought his own pinhole camera, which he'd made at home.

"It's quite exciting, I'm looking forward to seeing the eclipse. We've learnt about them in school," he said.

Enthusiast Jeff Hunt said he was most impressed with the home-made instruments.

"Given it's a clear day, it's exciting to see people involved in their own scientific work."

A solar eclipse happens when the moon passes directly between the earth and the sun.

The partial eclipse began at approximately 9.25am and ended at 11.47am, with the moon covering the maximum of 76 per cent of the sun at 10.34am.

Today's eclipse was the second of 2012, and the most complete eclipse New Zealand will see until July 22, 2028.

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- The Dominion Post


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