"It's not something you see every day," says stargazer John Talbot with massive understatement. In fact, we won't see anything like it again for at least 13 years.
Yesterday's partial solar eclipse was the last chance Wellingtonians had to see such a celestial event until September 2025.
Mr Talbot, president of Wellington Astronomical Society, has seen only four or five eclipses in his lifetime and never one with complete coverage of the Sun.
His society took its telescopes, fitted with solar filters and screened funnels, to Civic Square yesterday for the public to see the event.
At the eclipse maximum, about 10.34am, 60 or 70 passers-by congregated around the telescopes. "We were five or six deep at one point," Mr Talbot said.
More than 650 people also watched at Carter Observatory, which sold solar-viewing glasses and 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 Gardens.
Tyler had been learning about the galaxy, and her mother 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 spokeswoman 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."
The most rewarding moment of her day had been helping an elderly woman up the stairs to take a peek through the historic Thomas Cooke telescope.
"She said, 'I've always wanted to see this.' [The eclipse] was a bucket-list item for her."
A solar eclipse happens when the Moon passes directly between the Earth and the Sun.
Yesterday's 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.
It was the second eclipse of 2012, and the most complete transit New Zealand will see until July 22, 2028, when a total eclipse will be visible in Dunedin.
On September 22, 2025, Wellington will experience another partial solar eclipse, with 74 per cent of the Sun concealed by the Moon.
- The Dominion Post
Is it worth it to fund a war museum in the capital for $18m?