This year’s total eclipse of the Sun took place on Nov. 14 and was visible from Queensland, Australia (see the NASA Eclipse Web Site for details).
Gary Spears and I led a tour of 40 people to Australia (Spears Travel – Australia 2012) for the big event. We spent three nights in Sydney visiting the amazing Opera House and day tripping to Featherdale Zoo and the Blue Mountains. My wife Pat checked off a bucket-list item by climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge with Gary’s son Austin.
After Sydney, we flew to a Cairns and bused to Kuranda for two nights camping in Amaroo. The camp was set up by Amaroo owners Don and Judy Freeman and featured comfortable porta-johns (with showers!) and some lavish meals in the mess tent.
The day before the eclipse was mostly cloudy with frequent showers. This made it difficult for me to assemble my two equatorial telescope mounts and nine cameras so I worked mostly in the tent. At the nearby observing site, I polar aligned the two mounts using an angle finder and compass while taking into account the magnetic deviation of true north. The mounts then had to be covered in plastic to protect them from the rain.
On eclipse morning, we awoke to heavy clouds and more intermittent showers. Nevertheless, I hauled the rest of my equipment to the observing site. Everything had to be kept under plastic as occasional showers continued during the partial phases that began shortly after sunrise.
We caught our first view of the Sun just two minutes before totality began as a thin crescent appeared in a hole. I realized there was no time to acquire the Sun with my telescope so I powered up the video camera instead. The Sun disappeared from view once more, only a minute before totality. I could see the cloud covered sky growing dark as the Moon’s shadow approached from the west. Suddenly, the light faded and totality began.
The anxious eyes of 1000+ people in Amaroo searched the clouds for some glimpse of the total eclipse. Fortunately, a hole opened up and we managed to see about 45 seconds of corona and chromosphere. My friend Andy Steinbrecher gave a running commentary of the rewarding views through a pair of image stabilized binoculars. I continued shooting video but was unable to execute my coronal imaging program which requires clear sky during totality. (For example, see 2006 Eclipse – Corona Composites)
About 30 seconds before totality ended, the eclipsed Sun disappeared back into the clouds. I knew when 3rd contact occurred because the sky quickly brightened as totality ended.
Although I was initially disappointed, I realized that most of the folks in our group were thrilled to have seen something of totality so it wasn’t a complete cloud-out like Quebec (1972) or South Africa (2002).
This was my 24th total solar eclipse. I am already planning for next year’s total eclipse in Kenya (Spears Travel – Kenya 2013) and an annular solar eclipse back in Australia (Melitatrips – 2013 Australia). Visit Solar Eclipse Preview on my MrEclipse Website for a look at upcoming eclipses.