Cloud prevents good eclipse viewing

18:12, Nov 14 2012
CLOUD: The partial eclipse as seen from Palmerston North.
OBSERVERS: Paul Kerr and Raymond Watchman were amongst a small group of eclipse chasers from the Palmerston North Astronomical Society that traveled out to the clearer skies of Glen Oroua to enjoy this rare big partial solar eclipse.

Cloud prevented many in Manawatu from getting a decent view of the eclipse.

The eclipse - caused when the moon passes directly between Earth and the sun - saw Auckland in its shadow when began experiencing an 87 per cent eclipse beginning at 9.18am yesterday, reaching maximum coverage at 10.28am, and ending at 11.44am.

Skies did darken in Palmerston North however overcast skies meant the full effect of the eclipse could not be seen. 

ECLIPSE: The partial eclipse as seen from Palmerston North.

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By 9.30am about 350 people had gathered at Auckland's Stardome Observatory to view the event.

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."

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

In Wellington a small but enthusiastic group of astronomers  turned out to witness the solar eclipse on the waterfront this morning, and they have been treated to a spectacular view for their efforts.

The eclipse, which started about 9.30, is expected to cover about 75 per cent of the sun at its peak from the vantage point in Civic Square, said Wellington Astronomical Society president John Talbot.

"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.

"That's real science," he said.

Committee member Lesley Hughes said there should be "a significant darkening" of the sky.

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.

A "visible chunk" could already be seen taken out of the sun 10 minutes in.

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

As well as Stardome Observatory in Auckland, Carter Observatory in Wellington has telescopes with solar filters set up as well as special glasses to view the sun.

"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."

Manawatu Standard