Total Solar Eclipse 2023 April 20
An event that was held in high expectation since the last total solar eclipse to grace the Australian mainland in November 2012. This one was very special as it was a rare hybrid eclipse that started annular in the Indian Ocean, then became total, and then annular at the end of the track over the Pacific Ocean. The path of totality, which just touched the Australia mainland on the Exmouth Peninsula, Western Australia, was only 40 km wide and maximum duration was 63 seconds. Greatest eclipse occurred slightly south of Timor-Leste, an island east of Indonesia, with totality lasting 76 seconds. Duration at my location of Sal Salis on the western side of the peninsula in the Cape Range National Park, was 48 seconds. The entire duration of the eclipse was an unusually long 2 hours 57 minutes.
While Exmouth, with its tourism- based economy, is the only significant population centre on the peninsula, its normal population of 2,600 was swelled by many, many thousands of Aussies and visitors from all over the world who flocked to this prime destination. A little to the north of Exmouth is the North West Cape VLF radio communications base and other military installations which were established there in the early 1960's due to its very isolated location. Two of the region's prime tourist activities are "swimming with the whale-sharks" and snorkelling (and scuba diving) in the surrounding warm, clear waters, including those of the Ningaloo Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage coral reef just metres from the shore. April is a relatively dry month at Exmouth, though cloud cover can be significant. Average daytime temperatures were around 30oC and 24oC in the evenings. Despite concerns that Cyclone Ilsa might impact (it didn't) and the moderately cloudy skies on the 19th, eclipse day dawned clear and sunny and remained so to after 4th contact.
The partial phases passed uneventfully, though the air gained a distinct chill approaching totality and the gusty onshore winds abated. Then, the light faded more gradually than expected and the Moon's umbra arrived. It was a beautifully stunning show where I managed to observe the majority of the 48 secs of totality with my eyes. The intensity of the inner corona and the coronal streamers piercing the deep blue sky, together with bright prominences on the lunar edge, were breathtaking. Even nearby Jupiter, and Venus low in the NE, were spotted. Totality was way brighter than anticipated (based on previous experience) most likely because of the extra illumination from the inner corona due to the closeness in size of the Moon and Sun in the sky, which was aided by light reflected off the surrounding sand and water. At third contact, shadow bands were very clearly visible on the off-white sand on which I was standing and a small flock of little corellas made quite an audible commotion as the shortest "night" they had ever experienced had come and gone in almost no time at all.
Altogether, a most extraordinary experience.
|Just after first contact; a little nick on the top of the Sun to show that the Moon has arrived to start the show|
|Pinhole projection of the crescent Sun. A unique memento of the event and location|
|About five minutes to totality. A lot happens from here on|
|Baily's Beads marking the beginning of totality|
|The chromosphere in all its glory|
|A highly detailed view around the lunar edge at mid eclipse|
|The corona at mid-eclipse. Numerous long streamers extend into the deep blue sky giving the impression of a celestial flower|
|Third contact; a string of Baily's Beads extend along the lunar limb to mark the end of totality|
|The exit diamond ring. A stunning phase to enjoy for a second or two with naked eyes. Take care of your eyes - avoid looking for too long|