Total eclipse only the rich will see

Thousands of astronomers from all over the world are descending on remote Pacific islands for a spectacular total eclipse of the Sun. They are the ones with the money to travel, for few live beneath the eclipse track.

A total eclipse in August 2008 by Anthony Ayiomamitis
A total eclipse in August 2008 by Anthony Ayiomamitis

The eclipse will be a stunning sight as the Moon completely blots out the Sun’s disk, turning day into night. It lasts over five minutes at the optimum location.

The rare event occurs along a track thousands of miles long. But because that track is almost entirely over the sea, there are few places on land from which to see it.

Contrast that with the total solar eclipse just a year ago on July 22, 2009. Its track covered some of the most densely inhabited regions of the world including India and China, meaning that it might have been seen by millions.

A favourite destination for sun worshippers this time is Easter Island, 3,510 km (2,180 mi) west of mainland Chile. The influx from all over the globe will temporarily treble the population of the island – famous for its 887 ancient stone statues, called moais.

Usually there are around 2,000 people living in the island’s single village of Hanga Roa. But another 4,000 are expected to fly into its airport on eclipse expeditions. They are said to include Google co-founder Larry Page aboard his private jet.

NASA track of the eclipse shadow
How the eclipse shadow will fall

The spectacle begins when the Moon’s shadow touches the Earth a few hundred miles north of New Zealand. But it only crosses Mangaia in the Cook Islands and a few deserted atolls in the South Pacific before it reaches Easter Island. After that it hit the southernmost tip of South America just as the Sun is low in the sky and about to set.

Many eclipse fans have booked trips on cruise liners which will steer them to the eclipse track. And some have even paid thousands of dollars to charter aircraft to take them above cloud-level for a view.

You will find everything you could ever want to know (and more) about the eclipse at NASA’s special page. And come back to for details of how it went!

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By Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland has been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. He writes regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy, plus he has authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

3 thoughts on “Total eclipse only the rich will see

  • Pingback: Big things this weekend… « Where the Sun hits the sky

  • 07/11/2010 at 5:18 pm

    Will this eclipse trigger more earthquake activity?
    I have always been a fan of space and science because the future of mankind rests solely on our ability to overcome the challenges of long term habitation. When you stop and consider the alarming rate at which the earths resources are being gobbled up, one can only conclude that the destruction of our planet is inevitable. Even if we had some form of immediate population control measures, I doubt very seriously if we could stave off the cataclysmic events to come.
    Space exploration hasn’t been on the top of any presidential agenda since JFK held office and now were moving further away by putting the program in the hands of private investors who only care about shareholder benefits. When you turn on your television and watch a film like 2012 you begin to realize that there are some stark realities to be faced. I know your not nieve enough to believe we don’t have contingency plans in place in the event a major disaster occurs. What you may not be taking into consideration is that you and your family will never be part of that plan unless your scientific background has a useful purpose.
    Gene Roddenberry was a visionary and the Star Trek Sciences so many people dismiss as fantasy, are in fact the needed technology to move the human race forward. Imagine all space programs around the globe being combined into a single entity. Imagine all of mankind replacing the persuit of wealth with the conquest of space. Imagine all the scientific minds of the world working side by side in facilities where sharing information and discoveries is welcomed with open arms. Imagine us building vehicles that would allow us to travel farther than we ever dreamed of in half the time.
    Finally I just want to say that I believe with all my heart that a global space project could eliminate unemployment world wide, because it would create jobs for every skill level in existence. We all want a better future for ourselves and our families, but time on this planet is running out. The only way to secure that future is to stop the violence by working with our neighbors to (BOLDLY GO WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE BEFORE).

  • 07/11/2010 at 7:05 pm

    Eclipses happen regularly and the Sun and Moon line up twice a month anyway at New and Full Moon. Earthquakes happen at any time and will continue to do so. There is no significant evidence of greater activity during an eclipse. We should just enjoy such phenomena and not worry needlessly.

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