Through a glass darkly

The previously dark clouds parted above the Beverly Begg Observatory and dozens of Dunedin skygazers were unexpectedly able to see "the moon biting the sun" in a rare partial solar eclipse yesterday.

The previous partial solar eclipse easily visible from the city was in February 2008, and the next will not happen until 2025.

Among the eager and surprised viewers was Lynn Taylor (78) a life member of the Dunedin Astronomical Society.

She was at first "very disappointed" to be thwarted by the clouds, but delighted to later get a good view.

Huge crowds gathered in Far North Queensland to watch a total eclipse (top right) at 6.39am Australian time.

Viewing of the partial eclipse was expected to begin in Dunedin at 9.34am but nothing could be seen until shortly before 10.45am when the clouds parted for about a minute, allowing people a glimpse of the partial eclipse near its predicted 61% maximum coverage of the sun.

Shortly after 11am, the clouds parted again, allowing good viewing of a diminishing partial eclipse until the event ended at 11.43am.

"It was fantastic. It's brilliant," said Angela Clark, a society member, who took several photographs, using her digital camera and two telescopes, including the partial eclipse at left.

More than 50 people visited the Dunedin observatory.

Society president Ron Paine said the viewing had been "quite impressive" although early cloud had discouraged more people from watching at the observatory using specially filter-protected telescopes to protect their eyes from sun damage.

Although cloud hindered viewing in much of southern New Zealand, Northlanders got a good view when the moon obscured 89% of the sun at 10.25am in Whangarei.

 

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