Someone at just the right spot in Antarctica could see an annular eclipse of the sun – sometimes called a ring of fire eclipse – on April 29, 2014. From there, the new moon will block out all but the outer edge of the sun’s disk. Outside of this small, inaccessible region of Antarctica, though, the April 29 solar eclipse will be partial for those able to see it. In particular, a partial solar eclipse will be seen from across Australia. Follow the links below to learn more.
Who can see the April 29, 2014 solar eclipse? Most people who see the partial solar eclipse on April 29 will be in Australia. Those in southern Australia will see the new moon obscure about 50% of the solar disk in their afternoon hours on April 29. In far-northern Australia (and far-southern Indonesia), observers will see only a tiny, tiny portion of the solar disk eclipsed by the new moon.
In Melbourne, the eclipse will occur from 3:59 p.m. to sunset before its actual end at 6:09 p.m., starting at 16o (1 and 1/2 hands) above the horizon.
In Sydney, the eclipse will occur from 4:13 pm to sunset, before its actual end at 6:10 p.m., starting at 11o (about 1 hand) above the horizon.
Outside of Australia, the partial solar eclipse is visible from parts of Antarctica, a large swath of the South Indian Ocean and the extreme southern reaches of Indonesia.
We list the local times for the partial eclipse for three Australian cities (Perth, Alice Springs and Melbourne). No conversion from Universal Time to local time in your locality is necessary. Click here for eclipse times at more localities in Australia, Indonesia and the Indian Ocean. Keep in mind that you need to convert Universal Time to your local time.
Perth, Western Australia
Partial solar eclipse begins: 1:18 p.m. local time
Greatest eclipse: 2:43 p.m.
Partial solar eclipse ends: 4:00 p.m.
Alice Springs, Northern Territory
Partial solar eclipse begins: 3:45 p.m. local time
Greatest eclipse: 4:48 p.m.
Partial solar eclipse ends: 5:44 p.m.
Partial eclipse begins: 3:59 p.m. local time
Greatest eclipse: 5:07 p.m.
Sunset: 5:34 p.m.
Partial eclipse ends: 6:09 p.m.
The French amateur astronomer Xavier Jubier, of Paris, has put a map online; it is a Google map that can be zoomed into, and which enables you to click where you are and find out what you will see there: http://bit.ly/1rqvwE0
A solar eclipse can only happen at new moon because that’s the only time the moon can swing between Earth and the sun. The plane of the moon’s orbit around the Earth is inclined at 5o to the plane of the Earth’s orbit around the sun, so more often than not, the moon goes north or south of the sun’s disk at new moon. Therefore, a solar eclipse doesn’t always happen each month at new moon.
For roughly two weeks, the moon in its orbit travels north of the ecliptic – Earth’s orbital plane – and for the following two weeks, the moon goes south of the ecliptic. Two times a month, the moon in its orbit crosses the ecliptic at points called nodes. If the moon is moving from south to north, it’s called an ascending node; if the moon is crossing the ecliptic from north to south, it’s called a descending node.
If the new moon occurs at or near one of its nodes, then a solar eclipse is in the works. This time around, the new moon aligns close enough with its descending node to present a non-central annular eclipse in a small part of Antarctica and a partial eclipse for Australia and much of the South Indian Ocean.
We recommend these two eclipse calculators for finding the precise eclipse times for your area. Timeanddate.com gives the clock reading for your time zone, so no conversion is necessary. The US Naval observatory gives the eclipse times in Universal Time, so you need to convert to your local time:
Eclipse calculator courtesy of timeanddate.com
Solar eclipse computer courtesy of the US Naval Observatory
Bottom line: Australia probably offers the best place worldwide to watch the partial eclipse of the sun on Tuesday, April 29, 2014. Southern Australia will see the new moon obscure about 50% of the solar disk in the afternoon hours on April 29, while far-northern Australia (and far-southern Indonesia) will see only a tiny, tiny portion of the solar disk eclipsed by the moon. There is an annular (ring of fire) eclipse on April 29, visible only from Antarctica.