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Countdown to a total solar eclipse

Fred Espenak / NASA / GSFC

This map shows the thin track of totality for the Nov. 13-14 total solar eclipse, as well as a grid showing the wide area of the Asia-Pacific region and Antarctica from which a partial eclipse will be visible.


More than 50,000 tourists are expected to converge on Australia for the year's only total solar eclipse on Nov. 13-14 — and I'm one of them. If you're not, don't despair: There'll be ample webcasts of the event, thanks to the magic of the Internet.

Most of the throngs will gather in Australia's northern province of Queensland, "Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef," which is already getting set for the additional crush of visitors.

"The challenge and the opportunity is that it takes place over such a short space of time ... but we're not focused on just the black spot in the sky; it's how we use the opportunity to promote the destination," Tourism Queensland's Jeff Gillies told The Cairns Post. The economic impact could amount to $75 million or more. And that's in Australian dollars.


The psychological impact can be just as stunning, even though totality lasts only a few minutes at most: When the moon fully covers the sun's disk, the skies darken and the delicate glow of the sun's corona becomes visible around that black spot.

Linda Bugbee, a tourist from Virginia who is heading to Australia to see her fourth solar eclipse, told The Associated Press that her first brush with totality "was a lot more emotional than I expected."

"Time sort of stops, but you know it's only going to last a minute or so," she said. "You sort of take the universe and the planets for granted, but when this happens, it seems so real."

It all seems so unreal for me: While Linda Bugbee and her husband will be watching the eclipse from the city of Cairns on Nov. 14, I expect to be looking up from the deck of a cruise ship off Australia's east coast. The Dawn Princess is due to find a clear patch of sky somewhere within the track of totality, which measures roughly 100 miles wide from north to south, and thousands of miles long from east to west.

The eclipse begins at sunrise in Australia's Garig Ganak Barlu National Park, and ends at sunset about 500 miles west of Chile. A partial solar eclipse will be visible across a wider stretch of the Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and South America. This video shows you how the event will develop during the day.

Post-dawn darkness is due to fall on Cairns at 6:39 a.m. AEST on Nov. 14, which translates to 3:39 p.m. ET Nov. 13. You should be able to follow the eclipse online via these webcams:

There'll surely be more webcams available as we get closer to the event. Please feel free to add your favorites in the comment space below. I'll  fill you in on my own brush with totality after the eclipse — but for most of this month, I'll be vacationing Down Under and touring Middle Earth. Regular postings to Cosmic Log won't resume until Nov. 27. In the meantime, turn to NBCNews.com's Science and Space sections to keep on top of the news. G'day, mates!

More resources for eclipses:


Alan Boyle is NBCNews.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. To keep up with Cosmic Log as well as NBCNews.com's other stories about science and space, sign up for the Tech & Science newsletter, delivered to your email in-box every weekday. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.