Antarctica to give greatest view of solar eclipse

21 November 2003

A total solar eclipse will take place in the southern hemisphere during Monday November 24 when the moon will pass directly in front of the sun as seen from a narrow strip of Earth's surface, including the Southern Ocean and parts of the Antarctic continent.

The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) will transmit live images on its website from its stations at Mawson, Davis and Casey stations which will each experience a partial eclipse.

Of the three, Davis will witness the closest to totality with 98 per cent of the sun covered by the moon, meaning that the sun will disappear almost entirely for just under two minutes.

Atmospheric research instruments, including a LIDAR (light detection and ranging) instrument, will undertake measurements of atmospheric disturbances related to the eclipse.

Only two permanently-staffed Antarctic stations – Russia’s Mirny research base and India’s Maitri station – will experience the total eclipse.

Atmospheric scientist Dr Andrew Klekociuk will be the AAD’s representative on board a flight path from Melbourne to Casey station then west along the coast for sightseeing before a rendezvous with the moon’s shadow at Mirny.

Dr Klekociuk said that he and fellow passengers would see the eclipse for 2 minutes 36 seconds compared with one minute 59 seconds for people on the ground.

"The aircraft will fly at an altitude of 11 kilometres. It will be above any weather and guaranteed an unimpeded view of the total eclipse."

Dr Klekociuk will monitor the general operation of the aircraft with respect to the environmental permit conditions and be on hand to answer passengers’ questions.

"The path of the eclipse will begin in the Indian Ocean around 1100 km southeast of Kerguelen Island, then cross Antarctica and end near the edge of the continent.

"While Mirny and Maitri will experience total solar eclipse, the remainder of Antarctica will see a partial eclipse as will much of New Zealand, Australia, southern Argentina and Chile," Dr Klekociuk said.

"During the eclipse, depending on the location, the sky will become darker similar to twilight where totality occurs. In other areas, the effect will not be so dramatic."

Important information:

Direct viewing of the eclipse, with or without optical devices is dangerous and may result in permanent eye damage. Special precautions are required to view it safely.