Solar eclipse impresses crowds in Queensland

Tens of thousands of people converged on North Queensland for Australia's full solar eclipse in a decade.

The cosmic spectacle attracted crowds from across the globe, who are up early to watch the show.

The moon crossed the sun's path and plunged the region into darkness at around 6:39am Cairns time.

Other parts of Australia were able to see a partial eclipse.

Hot air balloons full of astronomy lovers were dotting Queensland skies.

Wednesday's event is the first full solar eclipse visible from Australia since 2002 - and that was only visible in the nation's south.

The next solar eclipse to be visible from Australia is expected in May next year, but it will only be an annular eclipse (where the sun is still visible around the edges of the moon).

Pictures of the Queensland Eclipse

Indigenous astronomy expert Duane Hamacher was up on a hilltop near the Cairns Airport to watch the spectacle.

The research associate from UNSW said he had travelled from Sydney for the once in 300 year event.

He said many indigenous groups, including in Arnhem Land were watching the event which has deep spiritual meaning for them.

"Most Aboriginal cultures believe the sun is female and the moon is male," Mr Hamacher said.

"Some believe the sun is in love with the man but he does not reciprocate these feelings so the sun chases him around the sky.

"On rare occasions, she manages to grab him and in a jealous rage tries to kill him but he convinces the spirits that hold up the sky to save him, which they do."

Dr Stuart Ryder, from the Australian Astronomical Observatory said it takes the moon about an hour to pass from first contact, when it begins to cross the sun's path, to totality, when the sun is completely obscured.

During those few minutes of totality, it will seem like a moonlit night.

"However, when you look at the sky in any direction for a couple of hundred kilometres, you can see parts of the atmosphere which are outside the moon's shadow," he told AAP recently.

Visitors to Queensland

Tourism Tropical North Queensland chief executive Rob Giason said the eclipse had brought many tourists, with high interest from Japan, the United States and Britain.

"Many of these people have seen a number of eclipses in various parts of the world and are basically chasers of the eclipse phenomena," he told AFP.

"It's been fantastic for us after a number of lean years to have this traffic but also the opportunity for us to showcase this part of the world."

The eclipse has prompted a series of events around it, including a festival and a marathon which will be held after the moon completes its eclipse journey shortly after 6:30am local time.

Lachlan Walker, general manager of the Sheraton Mirage at Port Douglas, said his hotel started taking group bookings from star-gazers two years ago.

"We've certainly struggled with the challenges of the high Australian dollar... so it's great to have an event like this in the low season," he said.

  • Eclipse watchers should remember to wear safety goggles or view the event through simple projection devices, which can be made of cardboard. Even while hidden behind the moon, the sun is incredibly powerful. Just a few seconds of looking at it directly can cause blindness.