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Eclipse-Hunters Get Ready For Partial Eclipse

MEDIA RELEASE
Thursday 31 March 2005

ECLIPSE-HUNTERS GET READY FOR PARTIAL ECLIPSE OF THE SUN (SATURDAY 9 APRIL)

Eclipse-hunters will want to be up bright and early on Saturday 9 April, with a partial eclipse of the sun visible from New Zealand at sunrise.

When the sun rises over the horizon at approximately 6:40am in Auckland, the partial eclipse will already be in progress. It finishes about one hour later, when the sun is only about 10 degress above the horizon.

Viewers in New Zealand will only be able to see the sun partially eclipsed. “Like the sun with a bite out of it, which is the moon,” says the Stardome’s Kate McKinney.

In order to see this partial eclipse from New Zealand, it will be essential to have a flat horizon - a clear view over the sea is ideal.

“It’s also absolutely essential to use a safe method of viewing the sun in order to watch the eclipse. Looking at the sun directly, or through a camera, binoculars or telescope, can cause permanent damage, including the possibility of blindness,” says Kate.

One safe method of watching an eclipse is to project the sun’s image onto a screen, through a telescope or a pin-hole camera, to watch it in real-time like a movie.

The eclipse will not be visible from the Stardome Observatory – its location on the slopes of Maungakiekie/ One Tree Hill means the view to the east is partially obscured.

Kate says the 9 April eclipse is a “hybrid” eclipse which are considered rare – only about five percent of all eclipses occurring in six millennia, from 1999BC to 4000AD, are classified as hybrids.

A hybrid eclipse means at some locations on Earth the sun will be seen in annular eclipse, and at other locations, in total eclipse.

“A total eclipse is when the sun’s light appears completely blocked by the moon. An annular eclipse is when the moon appears centred on the disk of the sun, but the sun is still visible around the edge of the Moon - a little like putting a saucer on top of a dinner plate”, says Kate.

“Although everyone on Earth shares the same moon and sun, the curvature of Earth means that some people are slightly further away from the moon than others. The moon appears slightly smaller to the people who are farther from it, so they view the annular eclipse rather than the total eclipse.”

As with all eclipses of the sun, one would have to be in exactly the right spot on Earth to witness the event, says Kate. Anyone wishing to witness the entire 42 seconds of total eclipse will have to be within a particular 27km-wide region of the Pacific Ocean. The total eclipse cannot be seen from any major islands.

More information about eclipses in 2005: website of the Royal Astronomical Society of NZ (RASNZ):

http://www.rasnz.org.nz/Events2005.htm

‘Exploratorium’ website: instructions on how to make a pin-hole camera to view an eclipse safely:

http://www.exploratorium.edu/eclipse/how.html

Space.com’s article about superstitions and stories associated with eclipses:

http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/solarsystem/lunar_lore_000118.html

ENDS

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