Solar eclipse: Thousands flock to remote Australian town for rare celestial event

A rare solar eclipse has thrilled thousands of people who flocked to a remote Australian town for the best vantage point on Earth to watch it.

The sky over Exmouth in Western Australia turned dark for about 60 seconds on Thursday, when the Moon cast a 40km-wide shadow over the area.

The total solar eclipse was part of a rare hybrid eclipse, which occurs only a handful of times per century.

Partial eclipses were also visible across other parts of the Asia-Pacific.

This eclipse began in the Indian Ocean at sunrise and ends at sunset in the Pacific, with observers at different points in the path of the eclipse able to see its different – or hybrid – phases.

Some saw a total solar eclipse. Others viewed what is known as an annular solar eclipse – where the Moon is too small to completely block the whole of the Sun – or partial eclipses.

People living in Western Australia, Timor-Leste and West Papua had the best views.

But only those on the Exmouth Peninsula could experience the total solar eclipse, at 11:27 local time (04:27 BST).

The reef-side tourist town – 1,200 kilometres (745 miles) north of Perth – is normally home to just under 3,000 people. But its population has expanded sevenfold with all the stargazers making it their temporary home.

Tourists and scientists who travelled to Exmouth cheered as the temperature dropped, sky turned dark and the stars came out.

Henry, who travelled from the United States, told ABC News the event was “mind-blowing”.

“It’s only a minute long, but it really felt like a long time. There’s nothing else you can see which looks like that,” he said.

Perth schoolgirl Georgie Gibbs described standing in the Moon’s shadow as eerie.

“It’s surreal. It feels like a dream actually,” she told told the Australian Associated Press.

The last hybrid solar eclipse was in November 2013, and Nasa expects the next in 2031.