Total eclipse draws thousands
More than 60,000 amateur astronomers descend on Cairns to watch a total eclipse of the sun early Wednesday morning.PT0M0S 620 349
From beaches, hot air balloons, cruise ships and mountain tops, tens of thousands of eclipse watchers in far north Queensland witnessed a rare solar spectacle on Wednesday morning.
At 6:38am (7:38 AEST), tourists, scientists and amateur astronomers watched in awe as the moon completely blocked the sun.
In Palm Cove, north of Cairns, the crowd let out a round of applause as a patch of thick cloud - which had obscured most of the first phase of the total eclipse - parted just before totality.
Waiting for the eclipse ... stargazers were out in force.
As the final sliver of sun light disappeared behind the disc of the moon, solar gazers removed their protective glasses to marvel at the star's outer layers of hot gas. A pitbull whined and jumped, confused by the sudden darkness.
A total solar eclipse is the only time the sun's corona can be viewed from Earth.
Then, almost as fast as the sky darkened, a twinkle of light emerged and the moon continued its journey across the sun.
Natural wonder ... the solar eclipse.
A Japanese couple, Tatsuo and Reiko Makino, travelled from Tokyo to Palm Cove for three days to view the total solar eclipse, their third.
Mrs Reiko said they almost gave up hope they would see it when rain pounded their hotel on Tuesday night.
"We are very lucky," said Mr Makino.
Total solar eclipse
Total solar eclipse as seen from Palm Cove in Cairns and Ubirr Rock in Kakadu National Park. Wednesday morning, November 14, 2012. Photo: Peter Rae
Amateur astronomer Mike Chapman, who travelled from Sydney to view his first total solar eclipse, said the moment of totality was far better than he anticipated.
A book by the wife of world famous astronomer and author Carl Sagan first piqued his interest in eclipses.
"She described the full experience of the eclipse, watching the shadow across the ground, the drop in temperature and all the lights coming on in the house.
Today, with the excitement of seeing the eclipse, I didn't see any of that, I was so mesmerised by the corona," he said.
Some 60,000 people are thought to have travelled to Cairns and the surrounding beaches for Australia's first total eclipse in a decade. Local officials estimate the event will generate $75 million for the region.
The final phase of the eclipse, where the moon last touches the sun, was again obscured by cloud.
But it did not matter. Everyone had seen what they came for.