Professional astronomers and amateur cosmologists in the South Pacific had their protective glasses on and did not blink an eye as they witnessed a solar eclipse on Thursday. The moon blocked the sun for about a minute in some parts of Australia, Indonesia, and East Timor.
Parts of Australia, Indonesia, and East Timor saw a complete blackout in broad daylight. Curious observers were delighted with the total eclipse, and stargazers in Exmouth, northwest Australia, set up their telescopes and wore goggles to view the moon. “A lot of people get addicted to that one minute or so of eerie spatiality,” said John Lattanzio of the Australian Astronomical Society. “They keep wanting to
repeat the experience,” Lattanzio added.
An eerie calm descended when darkness fell at 11:29:48 p.m. local time in western Australia. Thousands of people lined up outside a Jakarta planetarium to gaze at the partially covered moon through a telescope. Kristoforus Aryo Bagaskoro and his 10-year-old daughter, Angela Tara, looked at the phenomenon reflected on the surface of a bucket filled with water in Bekasi, near the Indonesian capital. “It was a rare event. Tara was excited and asked why it happened,” Bagaskoro said. He assured that the partial eclipse was “great.”
For viewers, eclipses are moving and fun, but for scientists, they are an opportunity to observe the solar corona, usually obscured by the sun’s bright rays. Witnessing a solar eclipse helped Albert Einstein develop his hypothesis that light can be bent.
In the far east of East Timor, more than a thousand people, including tourists and astronomers from Southeast Asian countries, gathered to watch the total eclipse. Stargazers wore UV-protective glasses distributed by astronomy groups, and others lined up to use the telescopes at the National University of East Timor.