Updated by E K Benj and Tiffanie Turnbull at 0657 EAT on Thursday 20th April 2023
Thousands of tourists and scientists have flocked to a small Australian town offering one of the best vantage points on Earth for a rare solar eclipse.
SYDNEY- The sky over Exmouth in Western Australia will turn dark for about 60 seconds on Thursday, when the Moon casts a 40km-wide shadow over the area.
The total solar eclipse is part of a rare hybrid eclipse, which occurs only a handful of times per century.
Partial eclipses will also be visible across other parts of the Asia-Pacific.
This eclipse begins in the Indian Ocean at sunrise and ends at sunset in the Pacific, with observers at different points in the path of the eclipse able to see its different – or hybrid – phases.
Some will see a total solar eclipse. Others will view what is know as an annular solar eclipse – where the Moon does not completely block the whole of the Sun – or partial eclipses.
People living in Western Australia, Timor-Leste and West Papua will have the best views.
But only those on the Exmouth Peninsula will experience the total solar eclipse, at 11:27 local time (04:27 BST).
Exmouth – a reef-side tourist town 1,200 kilometres (745 miles) north of Perth – is normally home to just under 3,000 people. But its population has expanded sevenfold with keen stargazers descending on the town.
As the Moon moves in front of the Sun, the gathered crowds will be bathed in curved shadows, then darkness. The temperature will drop, the stars will come out, and wildlife will start acting strangely.
“Animals seem to react to the dimming of the Sun as if it were an unexpected sunset and the end of the day,” wildlife biologist Bill Bateman told the Australian Associated Press (AAP).
“Birds may stop singing and move to roosting sites, lizards may move to night-time cover.”
Couple Liam Dorney and Elien Wijns – who met at an eclipse in 2012 and have now travelled to Exmouth for their sixth – say it’s an “almost religious experience”.
“It was so beyond us, and it just really encompassed everything,” Mr Dorney told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
The last hybrid solar eclipse was in November 2013, and Nasa expects the next in 2031.
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