Total Solar Eclipse 2012

November 13, 2012 by  

Total Solar Eclipse 2012, Tens of thousands of scientists, astronomers, eclipse chasers, their friends and families are reported to be descending on Australia to see the total solar eclipse. If you are not one of them, you can watch the eclipse as it happens live over the Internet. Nasa, the Astronomical Association of Queensland, and Tourism Queensland have teamed up to provide live webstreams. You will find them at the bottom of this post.

In Australia, the eclipse takes place early on the morning of 14 November. In the UK, however, thanks to the 10-hour time difference between the two countries, the moon begins to cover the sun at 19:45 on the evening of 13 November. The total phase of the eclipse, when the sun’s disc is completely blocked out, commences at 20:38.

For the east coast of America, the eclipse will provide an afternoon Internet spectacle and for the west coast, it’s the perfect distraction for an early lunch break. But don’t be late. The eclipse is a quick one this time, with totality lasting just two minutes.

Before the 1970s, total eclipses were the only opportunity for astronomers to see the ghostly outer atmosphere of the sun, known as the solar corona. This ephemeral sight is one of nature’s most haunting visions and some astronomers even lamented the fact that they had to perform measurements and take photographs when all they really wanted to do was drink in the view.

The corona itself is a tenuous atmosphere of gas, heated by largely unknown mechanisms to more than a million degrees centigrade. The atoms in the corona continuously leak into space, creating the solar wind. The corona is constantly replenished by atoms escaping the surface of the sun.

Solar flares can rip a billion tonnes of gas from the corona and fling it into space. When these coronal mass ejections (or CMEs as astronomers refer to them) hit the Earth they create sparkling aurorae in the atmosphere and can disrupt electrical technology.

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