North Queensland experiences total eclipse

Thousands of eclipse-watchers have gathered in part of North Queensland to enjoy the solar eclipse, the first in Australia in a decade. Photo by Getty
Thousands of eclipse-watchers have gathered in part of North Queensland to enjoy the solar eclipse, the first in Australia in a decade. Photo by Getty

Thousands of spectators in north Queensland have witnessed Australia's first total solar eclipse in a decade.

For two minutes, shortly before 6am (AEST) today, north Queensland went from day to night as the sun, moon and earth aligned to create a spectacular sight.

It was the first full solar eclipse visible from Australia since 2002 - and that was only in the nation's south.

About 60,000 people travelled to Cairns and parts north to watch the solar spectacle.

Hot air balloons full of astronomy lovers dotted north Queensland's skies.

Astronomical Association of Queensland spokesman Terry Cuttle told AAP it was one of the most spectacular eclipses he has seen yet.

"There was cloud cover during the first part of the eclipse but the sun broke through just as the eclipse reached totality," Mr Cuttle said.

"It was quite a sight. It's one of the best."

Spectator Ben Woodward said the temperature dropped, the sky went darker and birds went quiet when the eclipse reached totality.

"It was an eerie feeling and the temperature dropped but the sky didn't go completely dark. It looked like dusk," Mr Woodward, from Cairns Wildlife Dome, told AAP.

"The view was obstructed by a large cloud but there were moments where you could see the eclipse occurring."

He said a lot of cameras had been positioned in the wildlife park to record how the animals reacted.

"Several wildlife keepers have said a lot of the birds fell asleep."

The eclipse was visible from a narrow strip, known as the path of totality, starting in Kakadu National Park, passing over far north Queensland and the South Pacific, finishing just off the coast of Chile.

The eclipse was over around 7.40am (AEST) in Cairns.

Many indigenous groups, including in Arnhem Land, were watching the event which has deep spiritual meaning for them.

Indigenous astronomy expert Duane Hamacher was up on a hilltop near the Cairns Airport to watch the celestial spectacle.

"Most Aboriginal cultures believe the sun is female and the moon is male," Mr Hamacher told AAP.

"Some believe the sun is in love with the man but he does not reciprocate these feelings so the sun chases him around the sky.

"On rare occasions, she manages to grab him and in a jealous rage tries to kill him but he convinces the spirits that hold up the sky to save him, which they do."

The next solar eclipse to be visible from Australia is expected in May next year but it will only be an annular eclipse (where the sun is still visible around the edges of the moon).

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