On Thursday afternoon, about 20,000 people from various parts of the world gathered in the small Australian village of Exmouth. What was so attractive in this small town of fewer than 3000 people to have called the attention of several thousands of people from all over the world? They have come to see how mid-day would turn into the night for 58 seconds.
The small town has been promoted as the best place to view the rare hybrid solar eclipse. Hence thousands of tourists had been gathering in Exmouth for days with their tents and temporary homes.
The crowd started cheering loudly as darkness came upon them when it was still midday. With sunshade in their eyes, they tried so hard not to blink as the wonderful sight would last less than a minute. Although it was not time for prayers, the Muslims called for prayers because they believe the eclipse was a sign of God’s greatness.
The tropical heat cooled down completely in a few seconds as blinding darkness gradually replaced daylight. Cameras were on standby to capture the brief moment that attracted thousands from all over the world.
After 58 seconds, the moon gradually moved from under the sun and daylight returned. However, the thousands that saw the moment would no doubt remember it for years, including eclipse chasers that have seen similar moments in the past.
“It’s a crazy phenomenon”, observers couldn’t hide their enthusiasm
Eclipses aren’t so common, and most people do not get to see them in their lifetime. Hence, those that managed to see one are often excited about it. After residents and visitors in Australia and Indonesia saw the eclipse, they couldn’t hide their true feelings. They were overly excited and their emotions were high.
Julie Copson, an eclipse chaser, who was seeing the rare moment for the first time, said: “I feel so emotional, like I could cry. The color changed and seeing the corona and sun flares.”
“It was very strong and the temperature dropped so much,” adding that the phenomenon got her skin tingling. She travelled about 600 miles to see the moment.
Not everyone was like Copson, who was seeing a total eclipse for the first time. Shane Varrti, who came from the US, began plans over a year ago to witness what would be his fifth eclipse.
“It’s very exciting. All this effort has come to fruition,” Varrti told reporters.
Most of the eclipse passed through the waters, making it difficult for several people to see it. It passed through a very small portion of land, but it was partially visible in the capital of Indonesia, Jakarta. However, those that saw the partial eclipse were also satisfied with what they saw.
21-year-old Azka Azzahra used a telescope alongside her sister to get a closer look and a clearer picture of the moon and the sun.
“I am still happy to come even though it is cloudy. It is happy to see how people with high enthusiasm come here to see the eclipse, because it is rare,” Azzahra said.
Even astronomers were awed
Henry Throop, a NASA astronomer, travelled from the United States to the small town of Exmouth to see the rare eclipse. He cheered with other eclipse chasers as night falls at an unusual time.
“Isn’t it incredible? This is so fantastic. It was mind-blowing. It was so sharp and it was so bright. You could see the corona around the sun there,” Mr Throop says.
“It’s only a minute long, but it really felt like a long time. There’s nothing else you can see which looks like that. It was just awesome. Spectacular,” Throop continued. “And then you could see Jupiter and Mercury and to be able to see those at the same time during the day — even seeing Mercury at all is pretty rare. So that was just awesome.”
Michael Kirk, another NASA solar expert, said this kind of eclipse happens about once every ten years when the Earth is in the “sweet spot.” It is total darkness because the moon and the sun become almost the same size.
“It’s a crazy phenomenon,” Kirk said. “You’re actually watching the moon get larger in the sky.”
The next time the world would see this type of eclipse would be in 2031, but there would be an Annular eclipse in October and a total eclipse in April 2024 in the American continents.
Why eclipses are chased
Almost every human gets to see some form of an eclipse in their lifetime. However, most humans live without seeing a total eclipse, where daytime turns to night completely.
On average, the world experiences one total eclipse every 18 months. That is two eclipses in three years. If that is the case, then everyone has the opportunity to see one. But it takes about 375 years for a total eclipse to happen again at the same location. What that means is that the people of Exmouth in Australia would have to wait for about 375 years before they would see another total darkness at midday.
Hence, eclipse lovers travel to places where they could see a total eclipse like they did on Thursday. If they wait at home for such, they might spend their entire life waiting for what would never come. Several thousand have become addicted to eclipses and are ready to travel to visit anywhere in the world just to see the short moment again.