Scientists and interested skywatchers have been flocking to Cairns, Australia to witness one of the most spellbinding astronomical sights: a total solar eclipse. The November 13/14 total solar eclipse will only be visible in its entirety to ground-based observers watching from northern Australia, but several webcasts will be available so that people around the world can watch as well. At about 22:11:48 UT on November 13 (it will be the morning of Nov. 14th in Australia) the Moon will pass directly in front of the Sun, and totality will only last about 2 minutes, with the Sun having risen just 14 degrees above the eastern horizon. The total time of the event, from first contact to fourth contact (the end of a solar eclipse when the disk of the Moon completely passes from the disk of the Sun) will be about 3 hours.
During totality the Sun appears to have a white halo – a rare glimpse of the Sun’s million-degree plasma atmosphere, or corona, which is too washed out by the Sun’s brightness to be observed normally.
During an eclipse, “the Moon reveals the innermost corona, which manmade coronagraphs have trouble seeing,” said Shadia Habbal of the Institute for Astronomy in Hawaii, who will be in Australia for the event. “That is where all the magnetic field and physical processes responsible for heating the corona are evolving most rapidly.”
For this total solar eclipse, the path of totality will be about 174 km (108 miles) wide and will cover 14,500 km (9,000 miles) over a 3-hour period.