'Spectacular' solar eclipse plunges parts of Australia and Indonesia into brief darkness

Onlookers watched with special binoculars and telescopes. Credit: Channel 7

Around 20,000 eclipse chasers watched a rare solar eclipse plunge part of Australia's northwest coast into brief midday darkness on Thursday.

The eclipse crossed over remote parts of Australia, Indonesia and East Timor with an accompanying temperature drop.

The remote tourist town of Exmouth, with fewer than 3,000 residents, was promoted as one of the best vantage points in Australia to see the phenomenon.

In the days leading up to the eclipse, crowds camped in tents and trailers on a dusty plain on the edge of the town with viewing equipment and protective glasses.

Watch as the coast was submerged into darkness

Others gathered in Indonesia capital Jakarta.

NASA astronomer Henry Throop was among those at Exmouth cheering loudly in the darkness.

“Isn’t it incredible? This is so fantastic. It was mind-blowing," said Washington resident Mr Thoop.

"It was so sharp and it was so bright. You could see the corona around the sun there."

Such celestial events happen about once every decade

“It’s only a minute long, but it really felt like a long time.

"There’s nothing else you can see which looks like that. It was just awesome. Spectacular. And then you could see Jupiter and Mercury and to be able to see those at the same time during the day - even seeing Mercury at all is pretty rare. So that was just awesome,” he added.

Julie Copson, who traveled more than 1,000 km (600 miles) from the Australian west coast port city of Fremantle north to Exmouth, said the phenomenon left her skin tingling.

“I feel so emotional, like I could cry," Ms Copson said.

“It was very strong and the temperature dropped so much,” she added, referring to a sudden 5 degree Celsius (9 degree Fahrenheit) fall in temperature when the moon’s shadow enveloped the region.

In Jakarta, hundreds came to the Jakarta Planetarium to see the partial eclipse that was obscured by clouds. Credit: AP

In Jakarta, hundreds came to the Jakarta Planetarium to see the partial eclipse that was obscured by clouds.

The hybrid solar eclipse tracked from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and was mostly over water. The lucky few people in its path either saw the darkness of a total eclipse or a “ring of fire” as the sun peeked from behind the new moon.

Such celestial events happen about once every decade: the last one was in 2013 and the next one isn’t until 2031.

They occur when Earth is in the “sweet spot” so the moon and the sun are almost the exact same size in the sky, said NASA solar expert Michael Kirk.

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