ECLIPSE Photo: Brian Charlton
What would you cross the world to see?
People from all around the world descended on northern Australia today to witness one of the most amazing sights in nature -- a total solar eclipse where the moon completely covers the face of the sun. The fact they're the exact same size in the sky (the moon is obviously smaller but much closer) means you get a quick glimpse of the glowing corona surrounding the sun, which is normally hidden from view.
This morning's eclipse started in Arnhem Land and then swept across the Gulf of Carpentaria, making land again in far north Queensland. The centre passed between between Cairns and Port Douglas before trailing off into the ocean and brushing past New Zealand. The path of the total eclipse was only about 100 kilometres wide, but you could see a partial eclipse from much of Australia.
I watched from Port Douglas along with thousands of others. Cloudy conditions threatened to spoil the view but in the end we got a pretty good view of the eclipse and the corona. It wasn't perfect, but could have been much worse. That's the risk you take when you're chasing an eclipse and you can be sure no-one regrets coming, no matter how far they travelled. Even in overcast conditions the world is still plunged into darkness and then reborn. The experience attracts space nerds and spaced-out hippies from all around the world, including the fabled eclipse chasers who spend their lives following the shadow of the moon.
Most of us have a geek pilgrimage we'd like to make before they die. Perhaps it's to view a total solar eclipse, or maybe to the southern lights (which might be next on my list). Maybe it's to visit a sacred site such as The Great Pyramid of Giza or Stonehenge. What would you cross the world to see just once in your life?