Every now and then there's a total eclipse, and no, it's not of the heart. The moon is standing between the Earth and the sun today and will be casting a giant shadow over a (sadly, mostly uninhabited) section of the Southern Hemisphere. The annual solar eclipse passed through the western US earlier this year, but it was only a partial stellar wonder. Since the center of our universe will be completely concealed this time around, we've collected everything you need to know about this afternoon's solar eclipse.
- The eclipse's peak occurs at about 3:30 p.m. EST/12:30 p.m. PST in the South Pacific — The instance of "greatest eclipse," aka the peak, is the moment when the moon's shadow and the Earth's center are the closest.
- Unless you're in Australia, you won't be able to see it — The path of the total solar eclipse will begin in Oz and be visible from land only for a short while. The only populated region that will see the eclipse is the city of Cairns, whose residents will view the solar wonder for an entire two minutes. It's visible on the wide, open ocean from there on out.
If you're wondering how to livestream the eclipse, read on.
- The moon's umbra will travel for 3.1 hours — What's an umbra, you ask? It's the innermost and darkest shadow cast by celestial bodies. And today's umbra will cover a path over 9,000 miles long.
- The eclipse will be streamed online — Catch all the extraterrestrial action from the Slooh Space Camera, Cairns Eclipse 2012's Ustream feed, or the Cairns City Webcam. Tune in at around 2 p.m. EST/11 a.m. PST to see the solar eclipse live.
- It's totally safe to look at — But this time only. It's important to observe proper eye safety measures during partial and annular solar eclipses, because the intense visible light causes damage to your eyes' light-sensitive rod and cone cells. During a total eclipse, however, the sun can be viewed safely.
- You can predict when you'll be able to see the next eclipse from your area — NASA's Solar Eclipse Explorer can tell you exactly when you'll be able to see the next solar eclipse from your city, at least until the year 3000. It also has historic eclipse sightings dating back to 1499 BC.