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Once-in-a-lifetime: Visitors come for the eclipse but stay for the stars

Anna CoxGeraldton Guardian
The moon covers the sun during a total solar eclipse in Piedra del Aguila, Argentina, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. The total solar eclipse was visible from the northern Patagonia region of Argentina and from Araucania in Chile, and as a partial eclipse from the lower two-thirds of South America. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Camera IconThe moon covers the sun during a total solar eclipse in Piedra del Aguila, Argentina, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. The total solar eclipse was visible from the northern Patagonia region of Argentina and from Araucania in Chile, and as a partial eclipse from the lower two-thirds of South America. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko) Credit: Natacha Pisarenko/AP

Exmouth is set to be the jewel in the WA crown on Thursday when it offers the best seat in the world to view the total solar eclipse, but an influx of visitors is paying attention to smaller gems along the way.

The Mid West is an important half-way point for the 25,000 expected tourists looking to make the journey from Perth to Exmouth, including international travellers making the pilgrimage for the solar rarity.

Museum of Geraldton manager Leigh O’Brien said: “We are seeing more and more people heading north for this amazing natural phenomenon, numbers are increasing every day. It’s great to see travellers stopping off in Geraldton and other places on the way to their eclipse experience, close to the ‘line of totality’ near Exmouth.”

Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said the McGowan Government “has put in a significant amount of work to make sure Exmouth and the surrounding shires are equipped to handle the influx of travellers expected for the Total Solar Eclipse”, as towns as far as 800km away anticipate a busy week.

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A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, totally blocking the Sun. The Moon’s path will create a 40km wide shadow at 11.29am on April 20.

Each year, a solar eclipse is usually visible from Earth. The chances of visibility are usually small given two-thirds of the planet is covered by water, and you can’t always see them from land. This is the first fully visible total solar eclipse in Australia since the 2012 event in Cairns.

This eclipse is bringing in space buffs from all around the globe, who are using the journey as an opportunity to experience the WA night sky before arriving in Exmouth for the main event.

The night sky near Hyden.
Camera IconThe night sky near Hyden. Credit: Tourism Western Australia/TheWest

CEO of Astrotourism WA Carol Redford said: “Our stargazing event in Mingenew is usually three quarters local residents, but last night was 90 per cent interstate and international travellers.”

Founder of Astrotourism WA Carol Redford during day two of the 2021 SEGRA conference
Camera IconFounder of Astrotourism WA Carol Redford during day two of the 2021 SEGRA conference Credit: Carwyn Monck/Kalgoorlie Miner/Kalgoorlie Miner

Ms Redford added light pollution was increasing by 2 per cent every year. “We’re losing the darkness and sight of the stars. We should continue to celebrate what we have in WA, which is a world class asset for stargazing,” she said.

The eclipse will be 99 per cent visible from Exmouth, about 80 per cent visible from Geraldton and 70 per cent visible from Perth. Gazers are encouraged to wear appropriate eye protection when looking at the eclipse as concentrated solar rays can cause serious eye injury.

Solar glasses available at the Geraldton Museum have sold out.

Ms O’Brien said: “It was great to see so much interest in the eclipse and viewing it safely. We will feature the solar eclipse live stream from Exmouth on our screen in the museum on April 20 and anyone can experience this online from the comfort of their own home too.”

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