IN a few days, on Wednesday, Novemeber 14, there will be an encounter between the moon and the sun. Although this sounds serious it isn’t anything to worry about. What we will be treated to is something known as an eclipse of the sun.
A common misconception is that we see the moon and planets because they give out their own light. This is incorrect, as the only body in the solar system that produces its own light is the sun. All other objects, such as the moon and planets, can be seen because they reflect sunlight.
Now, this may seem obvious but an often overlooked consequence of the sun being the only source of light is that everything must therefore cast a shadow. Normally these shadows are invisible in the blackness of space, but every so often they can be seen, such as when the earth and moon pass through each other’s shadows.
When the moon lies directly between the earth and sun its shadow falls onto earth. If you lie under this shadow the moon completely blocks out the sun and it will of course go dark.
This is one of the most spectacular astronomical events anyone can witness and is called a total solar eclipse.The next one visible in the central west occurs on July 22, 2028.
However, if you were to travel to Cape York next Wednesday, everywhere between Cairns and Port Douglas will see the first total solar eclipse visible on Australian soil for almost 10 years.
Unfortunately, since we’re a good way south of Cape York we won’t get to see a total eclipse. What we will get to see is a partial solar eclipse. A partial eclipse is when we get to see the moon only partly blocking our view of the sun.
As far as partial solar eclipses go Wednesday’s will be quite impressive. At its peak about 66 per cent of the sun will be covered.
The problem with looking at solar eclipses however is that it requires looking directly at the sun. This is extremely dangerous as the sun is far too bright for your eyes to handle and will more than likely cause serious and permanent eye damage. A good general rule is never look directly at the sun.
But if you do want to keep track of this eclipse there are ways of doing it indirectly and safely. Details of how to do this can be found on our website below.
Essentially the moon will start to cover the sun at 7:06am, mid eclipse will be at 8am and eventually it will finish at 9am.