02 November 2012

Record number of tourists head north for once in a lifetime show

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Record numbers of tourists are making their way up to Cairns in anticipation of one of the rarest phenomena in the world: a total solar eclipse.

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A total solar eclipse is a once in a lifetime sight for most people.

Even partial solar eclipses, when parts of the moon obscure the sun, are a rare occurrence but true, total eclipses are even scarcer. For a brief period, the moon is at the right distance from the Earth to seem the same size as the sun and completely obscures the sun, casting total darkness on a small patch of the Earth's surface.

And this Wednesday 14, November, just so happens to be one of those occurrences.

Shortly after 6 am, the temperature across northern Australia will start to drop ever so slightly as some of the sun's rays are temporarily blocked. Then the sky will begin to grow darker, like night is falling much faster than usual.

And then for around two minutes, the moon will complete eclipse the sun, leaving just a plain white circle in the sky and casting almost the entire city of Cairns into total darkness.

Eclipses are rare and can be ruined by plenty of factors such as only being visible from the middle of the Pacific Ocean or simply being covered by cloud, making total eclipses even rarer.

Margaret Darveniza, the regional development officer at Advance Cairns, says more than 50,000 tourists, including 25,000 international tourists, are expected to travel to the city to witness the spectacle.

Many of the region's hotels have been booked for years in advance but the event will still be viewable from the coastal areas around Cairns-Port Douglas. Plenty of visitors will view the event from boats and planes, even hot air balloons.

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