Friday, 8 February 2008

Partial Solar Eclipse

Travelling half way around the world in the hope of seeing a solar eclipse is nothing new for Jay Pasachoff, who managed to get a perfect view of the phenomenon from Nelson on Thursday. Mr Pasachoff, a professor of astronomy at Williams College in Massachusetts, travelled to New Zealand to view and photograph Thursday's partial eclipse, where the moon passed between Earth and sun.

It was the 46th solar eclipse he had seen, in a quest that has taken him around the world to places including Papua New Guinea, Antarctica, and now New Zealand.

While full lunar eclipses could be studied for scientific purposes, including getting a closer look at the sun's 1,000,000degC outer surface, partial eclipses - such as Thursday's - offered little scientific value, he said. But it did have value as it offered practice for documenting full lunar eclipses, as well as getting people interested in astronomy.

He said it was amazing that he could sit at his desk in the United States and figure out that being in Nelson, New Zealand between 4.34pm and 6.44pm Thursday would offer him the best view of the eclipse. Nelson was chosen for its clear weather at this time of the year, he said. This was despite the fact that only 62 percent of the sun was shaded for New Zealand viewers, with that peak happening at exactly 5.42pm. In Antarctica, the eclipse got to 96 percent.

A French climber was to scale a peak on the continent in the hope of seeing the "annular eclipse" - when the sun and moon are exactly in line - but Professor Pasachoff had not yet heard if it had been successful.

The next full solar eclipse near New Zealand would be visible from northern Australia on March 9, 2016. That eclipse will also be seen off the top of the North Island, although the sun will only be obscured by about 90 percent.

No comments: