If you were standing around outdoors near Cairns on November 14th last year then you might not have seen the sun.
The whole eclipse takes place over the course of a couple of hours with the ‘totality’ only lasting for 2 minutes in the middle. My friend Gord and I were treated to a sort of Hollywood interpretation of astronomy because during the two hours leading up to totality the sun was obscured by early morning cloud. Then, with only a few seconds to spare, the clouds suddenly parted just in time for us to watch the full eclipse.
It was very surreal. The darkness lasts just long enough for your eyes to adjust to this false twilight and as the sun re-appears you get lighting conditions similar to that of sunrise but the colours are different somehow because the light isn’t refracted by the atmosphere in the same way it is at the horizon.
Below I’ve posted a few photos of the folks watching the eclipse and a few images of Cairns and the surrounding rainforest. There’s about a thousand photos of the eclipse itself on this flickr group.
Interestingly, the demographics that go out of their way to watch celestial events are sort of contrary to one another. On the one hand you have these tanned hippy mystic types with dreadlocks in tasseled leather pants and canvas bags covered in badges. And on the other hand you have these pale, teacherly, middle-aged stargazers who are identifiable by their practical footwear, eye-glasses and reflecting telescopes. The city of Cairns seems to favour the hippies because there are a ton of piercing/tattoo parlours and crystal shops downtown but only one Birkenstock museum.
And the only time they’re really able to mix and mingle is in the departure lounge of the nearest airport following a total solar eclipse. The astronomers have luggage with wheels and look well rested but eager to escape the heat. The astrologers are sunburned, exhausted and they have duffle bags that would probably give those little sniffer dogs an aneurysm.