Get ready for the 9 March total solar eclipse

By Ade Ashford

The Moon will pass in front of the Sun on 9 March 2016 UT, casting its shadow over much of Southeast Asia, in a total solar eclipse lasting up to 4m 9.5s. People on the nearly 100-mile-wide path of totality crossing Sumatra (~00:20 UT), Borneo (~00:30 UT), Sulawesi (~00:40 UT) and North Maluku (~00:54 UT) will experience a total solar eclipse, in which all of the Sun’s bright face is blocked by the Moon, while people outside this path will see varying degrees of a partial eclipse. Animation credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/E. Wright.

The total solar eclipse of Wednesday, 9 March 2016 has a magnitude of 1.045 and is of relatively long duration — 4 minutes 9.5 seconds at greatest eclipse — which occurs at 1:57 UT/GMT. Totality is visible from Sumatra, Borneo, Sulawesi and the North Pacific Ocean, while the partial phases can be seen from East Asia, Australia and the Pacific Ocean.

Track of totality in detail
The tip of the Moon’s shadow crosses the sunrise line at a point on the Indian Ocean (2.2°S, 88.3°E), some 900 miles west of the Sumatran coast. Totality then crosses Palembang, the capital city of South Sumatra, whose population experiences 1m 52s of totality. Maximum eclipse occurs here at 00:21:45 UT when the Sun is 18 degrees high.

Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, misses out on totality as it is too far south, but still experiences 89 percent of the Sun obscured at 00:21:32 UT. Singaporeans will also miss a totally eclipsed Sun as they are north of the band of totality, witnessing a maximum of 87 percent of the Sun’s disc covered at 00:23:46 UT.

Click the image for a full-size version. AN graphic by Greg Smye-Rumsby.
Click the image for a full-size version. AN graphic by Greg Smye-Rumsby.
The track of totality makes landfall on southern Borneo where maximum eclipse occurs at 00:26:18 UT when the Sun is 24 degrees high in the east. By the time the Moon’s shadow leaves the Indonesian archipelago at Maba on North Maluku at 00:54:41 UT, the Moon’s shadow is 92 miles wide and totality lasts 3.3 minutes.

The track of totality now sweeps out into the Pacific Ocean north of Papua New Guinea where the point of greatest eclipse (10° 07.3’N, 148° 47.6’E) occurs at 1:57:11 UT, 350 miles southeast of Guam. Here the swathe of lunar shadow is 97 miles wide and totality lasts 4m 9.4s. The tip of the Moon’s shadow crosses the sunset line at 03:37:33 UT at a point in the North Pacific Ocean (32.6°N, 144.6°W) 1100 miles northeast of Hawaii and the spectacle of totality is over.

Partial eclipse as seen from Australia
A partial solar eclipse can be seen from most of northern and western Australia, while cities in the southeast — Adelaide, Melbourne, Hobart, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane (plus the Sunshine and Gold Coasts) — sadly all miss out (as does the entirety of New Zealand).

Perth experiences a maximum solar obscuration of just 1.3 percent (barely a nibble out of the Sun) at 8:26:36am AWST. Alice Springs fares better, with a maximum solar obscuration of 11.3 percent at 10:16:20am ACST. The partial eclipse is far deeper in the coastal Northern Territories, where Darwin witnesses a maximum solar obscuration of 50.2 percent at 9:17:11am ACST. Finally for this quick round-up, Townsville (the largest city in Queensland to see it) experiences a maximum solar obscuration of 10.7 percent at 11:12:33am AEST.

Observing solar eclipses
Eclipses can be viewed in complete safety if you take precautions. You should only use a solar-filtered telescope, eclipse glasses, or a pinhole projector. You should never look at the Sun directly, even if it is low in the sky or obscured by thin cloud — it may seem safe, but harmful infrared or ultraviolet light may still be present. Even when 99 percent of the Sun’s surface is obscured by the Moon, the unobscured sliver of sunlight can damage the eyes. For more information about eye safety, click here.

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