Antarctica to host eclipses with world watching

Image copyright EPA Image caption The biggest total solar eclipse of the 21st century will cross the Antarctic at around 1950 BST, with partial phases reaching South Africa and Australia

Image copyright AFP/Tasos Katopodis Image caption Hundreds of animals have been spotted on the Antarctic ice as the sun disappears

A total solar eclipse over Antarctica will be watched by a worldwide viewing audience.

Scientists expect it to be the biggest total eclipse of the 21st century, spanning much of the southern hemisphere.

Due to the position of the moon in the sky, its shadow will span 1,500 kilometres (900 miles) over the frozen continent.

But people on land can see the full sky of bright green to reddish-orange sunsets and moonset at approximately 1950 BST.

Parts of southern Africa and Australia will also see partial solar eclipses.

Image copyright AFP/Tasos Katopodis Image caption Clouds cover the sun in South Africa as the eclipse reaches its peak

While many of the world’s population will experience a partial eclipse – from Australia to Europe – scientists from the US, France, Australia, Australia and New Zealand will witness the totality – when the sun appears to disappear completely.

Scientists will gather data about the sun’s temperature, composition and magnetic field.

Image copyright AFP/Tasos Katopodis Image caption Eyewitnesses watching the moon set on top of the mountains in Europe were treated to the extraordinary sight

In South Africa, where the eclipse will last an extra-long 40 minutes, the sun will have given up 99% of its light, making for a spectacular spectacle.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for the public to be part of that,” said Anna Schofield, science co-ordinator for Southern Hemisphere astronomer International.

Glenys Stacey, lead astronomer at Cape Town Astronomical Observatory, added: “Cape Town gets 90% of its solar atmosphere through the Tropic of Capricorn.”

It will be the first time since 1991 that a total solar eclipse has been visible from the entire Southern Hemisphere.

Image copyright AFP/Tasos Katopodis Image caption A full solar eclipse can be spectacular, and is one of the best sights in astronomy

The total eclipse will end off the coast of Australia, bringing with it a spectacular lunar eclipse.

Gemma Robinson, a planetary scientist at the University of Lincoln in the UK, said: “It’s called a penumbral lunar eclipse because the Sun isn’t completely eclipsed.

“It’s similar to looking at the Moon and the Sun have exchanged places. If you look at a partial eclipse, it looks a bit different and you have to pop your head out to get an eyepiece.

“But a total lunar eclipse is a much more exciting sight.”

The moon will pass the point of lunar dimming called the Tropic of Capricorn, causing the sun’s rays to bounce off it as “buckyballs” for several seconds.

Image copyright EPA Image caption Hundreds of penguins are thought to use the nights to mate in the Antarctic

The Moon will enter Earth’s shadow at 18:06 BST and we will see it darken over South Africa, bringing the full eclipse until 18:49 BST.

In Antarctica, the last of the eclipse will end at 19:55 BST, allowing many penguins to mate.

The nearest stations where the view will be clear are Cape Town Observatory, White Desert, Palmer Station and Hobart Observatory.

Topics: eclipses, astronomy-space, science-and-technology, antarctica, united-states, south-africa, australia, new-zealand

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