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Behind the moon’s shadow

Why was a remote location in Western Australia the best place in the world to see April’s total solar eclipse? And where should you go to view the next one?

By Fred Watson and Marnie Ogg

(Credit Luke Jongens)

A total eclipse is an event any impresario would be proud to have arranged. That tantalising first contact of the Moon’s disc is the start of a splendid one-and-a-half-hour spectacle that builds to an overwhelming climax when the Sun disappears altogether for a brief period. And then there’s another hour and a half of more relaxed viewing, as the Sun grows from a slender crescent back to its shining whole.

It’s easy to imagine the terror our distant forebears must have felt during such an event – surely evidence that the gods had forsaken them. And what a relief to see the Sun return to normality afterwards. Even for us 21st-century sophisticates, there is food for thought in the remarkable coincidence that allows total eclipses to take place. While the Moon is 400 times smaller than the Sun, it is on average 400 times closer to Earth, so the two bodies have the same angular diameter of half a degree in the sky, allowing one to cover the other perfectly.

READ MORE thanks to the Australian Geographic

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