Lucky skywatchers in Southeast Asia get a rare front-row seat to a total eclipse on March 8 and 9, and Australians will see a still-dazzling partial eclipse. But the rest of the world doesn’t have to miss out: If you can’t hop a plane to the middle of the Pacific Ocean, you can watch it live online.
The moon passes between Earth and the sun every month, but a total solar eclipse happens only when the three celestial bodies are perfectly aligned. And this particular eclipse is even more special: It’s happening while the moon is at its closest point to Earth—called perigee—making the moon appear larger in the sky, as a “supermoon.”
The moon casts its dark central shadow, called the umbra, onto a very narrow strip along the surface of the Earth. The strip from which the upcoming total eclipse will be visible lies mostly over the Pacific Ocean.
Over the course of about three hours, the moon's dark shadow first touches land over Sumatra, Indonesia, at 6 p.m. EST Tuesday evening in North America (Wednesday in Indonesia).
The path of the totality—where the entire face of the sun is covered—then races across central Borneo, Sulawesi, and moves across the International Date Line into March 8. The shadow will pass quickly northeastward across the Pacific Ocean until vanishing near Hawaii.
In total, the moon's shadow will travel a path approximately 14,162 kilometres across the globe, while the width of the path will be no more than 156 kilometres across.
Along this thin track of totality, broad daylight will briefly turns into twilight. This darkness will last the longest at Woleai Atoll, Micronesia: a whopping four minutes, compared to just two in Eastern Indonesia.
Though the most dramatic parts of this celestial phenomenon will be visible in remote areas, armchair astronomers can watch a live webcast of the eclipse by the robotic telescope service SLOOH.com.
Slooh will beam multiple feeds from the Pacific Basin region along the path of totality, including coverage from the Indonesian countryside.
Partial phases of the eclipse—where only part of the sun is covered by the lunar disk—will be visible across a much wider area, including China, the Koreas, Japan, Philippines, Guam, northern Australia and even parts of Alaska.
For observers along the path of the eclipse, astronomers recommend using either a professionally manufactured solar filter in front of a telescope or camera, or eclipse-viewing glasses that sufficiently reduce the sun's brightness and filter out damaging ultraviolet and infrared radiation.