The final event of the year is a total solar
eclipse visible from a narrow corridor that traverses the Southern
Hemisphere. The path of the Moon's umbral shadow begins in the South
Atlantic, crosses southern Africa and the Indian Ocean and ends at sunset in
southern Australia. A partial eclipse will be seen within the much broader
path of the Moon's penumbral shadow, which includes most of Africa, western
Australia and Antarctica
The umbra carves out a 50 kilometers wide path
as it sweeps across Angola, briefly straddling the Angola/Zambia border,
crosses eastern Namibia before entering northern Botswana. The umbra crosses
completely into Zimbabwe before entering northern South Africa. The
northern third of Kruger National Park is plunged into totality which lasts
1 minute 25 seconds. Quickly crossing southern Mozambique, the shadow leaves
the Dark Continent and begins its long trek across the Indian Ocean.
During the next hour and a half, no land is
encountered as the eclipse track curves to the northeast and begins to
narrow. In the final ninety seconds of its terrestrial trajectory, the umbra
traverses South Australia. The coastal town of Ceduna lies at the center of
the 35-kilometer wide path. Totality lasts 33 seconds while the Sun stands
9¡ above the western horizon. The accelerating ground speed of the umbra
already exceeds 5 km/s. In the remaining seconds, the increasingly
elliptical shadow sweeps across 900 kilometers of the Australian Outback.
A detailed report on this eclipse is available
from NASA's Technical Publication series (see: NASA Solar Eclipse
Bulletins). Additional information is also available at the 2002 total solar
eclipse web site:
Total Solar Eclipse of 2002 December 04
This animation shows the path of the Moon's umbral and penumbral shadows
during the total solar eclipse of 2002 December 04. The Universal Time is
displayed in the upper right corner as the animation runs. The instantaneous
duration of the total eclipse is displayed in the lower right corner.
The eclipse begins as the Moon's penumbral shadow touches down in the
equatorial Africa (04:51 UT). The penumbra appears as a large greyish region
that sweeps across the Earth from west to east. It is approximately 4,300
miles (6900 km) in diameter. Everyone located within the penumbra's path
will see a partial eclipse of the Sun on December 04. Outside the path, no
eclipse is visible.
About one hour later (05:50 UT), the Moon's dark umbral shadow appears as
a tiny black dot at the center of the penumbra. The umbra is only about 54
miles (87 km) wide as it rushes across the Earth at velocities of 1250 miles
per hour (2000 km/hr) or more. To see the total eclipse of the Sun, one must
be located in the narrow path of umbra. Because the umbra is so small and is
moving so quickly, the total eclipse lasts no more that 2 minutes 4 seconds
from any location along its entire path.
From start to finish, the penumbra takes a little over five hours to
sweep across the Earth. The umbra takes just over three hours to travel from
the South Atlantic, through southern Africa and the Indian Ocean before
leaving the Earth's surface in southern Australia.