Total Solar Eclipse 2012 visible today from Australia, Pacific Ocean and online


Today, if you find yourself in or around the area of Cairns, Far North Queensland, Australia, or perhaps in a specific strip of the Pacific Ocean stretching from Cairns towards south-central Chile, you can be on hand to witness the last Total Solar Eclipse until March of 2015.

If getting to northern Australia just doesn't work out for your schedule or budget, or if your boat happens to be in drydock or just too far away for you to sail to the south Pacific in time, you can still see the eclipse if you get on online at about 2:30 pm EST, (1:30 pm CST, 12:30 pm MST, 11:30am PST).

[ Related: Tens of thousands anxiously await solar eclipse in Australia ]

By Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST), the eclipse starts just after sunrise on Wednesday, November 14th, so if you're there, you'll have to get up early. The eclipse won't reach totality there until around an hour later, and viewers will be able to see 2 minutes worth of totality. The SLOOH Space Camera staff have a crew located in Cairns to film the event.

The moon's umbra — the shadow cast where it completely blocks the sun — will then track across the pacific for the next 3 hours or so, with its penumbra — the wider shadow cast around the umbra due to the Moon only partially blocking the Sun from those angles — preceding and lagging by a little over an hour. It will reach its point of 'Greatest Eclipse' just east of the International Date Line at exactly 22:12:55 UTC (denoted by the asterisk in this image). According to the NASA Eclipse website, 'Greatest Eclipse' occurs the instant when the axis of the Moon's shadow passes closest to Earth's center (the point when the shadow is perfectly round in this animated image).

If you are viewing from the web, you won't have anything to worry about, but if you are watching the eclipse in person, please protect your eyes (NASA safe viewing techniques at this website).

[ Related: How to pack for eclipse-chasing adventures ]

The only time that viewing the sun without protection is during a total solar eclipse. However, any slip up in timing could result in permanent damage to your eyes or possibly blindness, so don't take the chance. Use special eclipse glasses or welder's goggles with a rating of 14 or higher, or project the eclipse onto a piece of paper using a pinhole projector or a pair of binoculars.