COUNTDOWN TO THE ECLIPSE


Date: 03/12/2002

On December 4, for the first time in 26 years, there will be a total solar eclipse visible from outback Australia including Ceduna, South Australia.

It will also be partly visible in Sydney, as long as we don't have total cloud cover.

According to Dr Ragbir Bhathal, Director of Astronomy Programs at the University of Western Sydney, a total solar eclipse is a spectacular and rare event.

"As the Moon passes directly between the Earth and the Sun, it casts a fleeting shadow across the face of the Earth," Dr Bhathal says.

"The Moon blocks out the Sun's surface and the Earth goes into twilight, which is both eerie and exciting.

"The total solar eclipse will only be visible from a narrow path across South Australia for about 33 seconds between 7.40pm and 7.42pm (South Australian Summer Time).

"Although Ceduna will be the best location to view the eclipse, people in the Penrith and Sydney areas will be able to see a partial eclipse in the evening from about 7pm. About 69 per cent of the Sun's diameter will be covered by the Moon.

"If you miss this one, then you'll be waiting a long time - the next solar eclipse visible from Australia will not occur until 2012."

Dr Bhathal warns people not to look directly toward the Sun.

"Whenever any part of it is visible, especially through binoculars or telescopes, serious eye damage may result."

Protective glasses or filters can be purchased from telescope shops or you can watch the eclipse over the internet on www.csiro.au/eclipse.

The path of the totality actually begins in the Atlantic Ocean just west of Africa, where the Moon's shadow first reaches the Earth at about 5 hours Universal Time.

It then crosses southern Africa and the Indian Ocean and reaches Ceduna in South Australia at about 9 hours Universal Time or about 7.40pm (South Australian Summer Time).

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For more information or requests for interviews contact Suzie Vlaming, Senior Media Officer, 02 9852 5823, 0414 308 701, s.vlaming@uws.edu.au

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