November 14th, 2012
10:30 AM ET

Australia's total solar eclipse

Tens of thousands of tourists, scientists and amateur astronomers gathered Wednesday along Australia's northern tip to witness a rare total solar eclipse.

For just two eerie minutes in the early hours of the morning local time, the country – known for its blistering sunshine – was plunged into a chilly darkness.

Onlookers gathered at vantage points on beaches, in boats and even hot air balloons to catch a glimpse of the celestial light show which, according to NASA, is unlikely to be seen again in the same region for another 360 years.

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Filed under: Eclipse • In Space
The science behind a solar eclipse
November 13th, 2012
02:27 PM ET

The science behind a solar eclipse

Are you traveling to Australia especially to watch the solar eclipse? Share your experience with us.

A total solar eclipse will occur over the northeastern Australian coast early in the morning of November 14 local time. Clueless about this spectacular astronomical event? No worries, we've got you covered. We're here to explain what causes this remarkable act of nature, what skygazers will see and how those outside of Australia can join in the experience.

What exactly is a total solar eclipse?

A solar eclipse happens when the moon, as it orbits Earth, passes directly in front of the sun, obscuring its rays and casting a shadow on Earth's surface. Sometimes referred to as a "happy accident of nature," a total solar eclipse occurs when the moon is perfectly aligned with both the sun and Earth, so it appears from our perspective that the sun is completely blocked.

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Chasing shadows: How to watch the solar eclipse in style
On November 14, northern Australia and the southern Pacific Ocean will witness a total solar eclipse.
November 12th, 2012
02:15 PM ET

Chasing shadows: How to watch the solar eclipse in style

Are you traveling to Australia especially to watch the solar eclipse? Share your experience with us.

Susie Kalimnios has traveled thousands of miles for two spectacular minutes.

The mother of three from Montauk, New York, is in Australia for what she's hoping will be "the experience of a lifetime."

She has made a pilgrimage to Australia's remote Far North Queensland region to witness a total solar eclipse.

For just a few ethereal minutes on the morning of November 14, the nation's northernmost tip will be plunged in to complete darkness, as the moon aligns precisely between the earth and the sun.

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Star-crossed: How to see Venus cross the sun
Watching the transit without special glasses will permanently damage your eyes, say experts. Regular sunglasses aren't safe.
June 5th, 2012
02:04 PM ET

Star-crossed: How to see Venus cross the sun

Whatever you do, for God's sake, don't look at it with your naked eyes!

Today, the planet Venus is crossing between the Earth and the sun - and millions of people will be craning their necks and squinting to see it.

Just don't hurt yourself.

Taking a gander at the "Venus Transit" without protection will put you at risk for permanent eyesight damage, say experts.

It's going to be hard to see - even with the right eyewear. (Safety tips below.) But you might really want to take a look at it, knowing this: it's Mother Nature's last-chance offer.

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Filed under: Eclipse • In Space • News • the Sun
May 15th, 2012
01:08 PM ET

Solar eclipse in North America on May 20

(CNNMéxico) - On Sunday, May 20, an annular solar eclipse will be visible from some areas of United States, northern Mexico and Canada, according to the Institute of Astronomy, in the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM, Autonomous National University of Mexico).

"Solar eclipses occur when the moon covers the solar disk and projects its shadow on Earth," the Institute explained on its website.

A solar eclipse happens when the moon is in its new moon phase and is perfectly aligned with both the sun and the Earth. From our perspective, the sun is hidden.

During the astronomical phenomenon on May 20, the moon will be in one of its furthest positions from Earth, so its shadow will not be able to completely hide the sun, as would occur in a total eclipse.

That's why this phenomenon is called an annular eclipse. "For this beautiful phenomenon, the sun peeks over the edges of the moon as a bright shining ring," according to the Institute.

"In the United States, the afternoon sun will become a luminous ring in places such as Medford, Oregon; Chico, California; Reno, Nevada; St. George, Utah; Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Lubbock, Texas," according to NASA.
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'Tatooine' gives first direct proof of 2-sun planet
This iconic "Star Wars" scene inspired the nickname "Tatooine" for a newly found 2-sun planet Kepler-16b.
September 15th, 2011
02:00 PM ET

'Tatooine' gives first direct proof of 2-sun planet

Luke Skywalker looks out over a desert dominated by two setting suns in an iconic scene from "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope." But this isn’t just the stuff of fiction. Now, astronomers have confirmed the first direct evidence that planets with two suns do exist.

Scientists at NASA and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute [SETI] are informally calling the newly discovered world Tatooine, as homage to Skywalker's planet imagined by George Lucas.

The so-called circumbinary planet has been dubbed with an official name that's much less interesting: Kepler-16b.

Unlike the tagline of the Star Wars saga, Tatooine is not located in a "galaxy far, far away," it's right in our own backyard -- relatively -- about 200 light years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. Getting to Tatooine aboard a spacecraft traveling at light speed -- 186,282 miles per second -- would take about two centuries. (The closest star to earth outside our solar system is about 4 light years away.)

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Spectacular lunar eclipse Wednesday
June 15th, 2011
03:58 PM ET

Spectacular lunar eclipse Wednesday

Sky gazers in much of the world will see a spectacular lunar eclipse Wednesday night. But if you're in North America, Greenland or Siberia, you'll have to view it virtually.

Lunar eclipses occur two to four times a year, when the sun, Earth and moon align. This one is special because the period of totality – when the moon is completely covered by Earth's shadow – will last for one hour, 40 minutes, considerably longer than usual, said David Dundee, astronomy program director at the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville, Georgia.

"All lunar eclipses are cool, but in a total lunar eclipse, the moon turns a kind of a red color," he said. The middle of Earth's shadow isn't black, it's red, Dundee explained, because the light waves from the sun that are on the red end of the spectrum bend around the planet at just the right angle to bathe the moon in red light.

FULL STORY at CNN's This Just In

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