TOTALITY APRIL 20, 2023
The path for this eclipse commences as an annular solar eclipse deep in the Indian Ocean, soon becoming a total eclipse for the majority of the path. It makes limited landfall across the Northwest Cape in Western Australia before heading into the Timor Sea. The path continues across Timor-Leste & Papua, before continuing out towards the Pacific Ocean, ending as an annular eclipse.
This is a hybrid eclipse – only the first and last 700km of the path will be annular, with the remainder of the path – approximately 12,000km – being a total eclipse. All land locations within the path will experience a total solar eclipse, which is the most awe-inspiring event and worth traveling for.
Eclipse planners and communicators within the land regions of the eclipse should use the terms ‘total solar eclipse’, and ‘totality’ when referring to this eclipse to guide understanding.
The partial solar eclipse will be visible across the whole of Australia, making this an event of national interest. Of note is that this is the first of five total solar eclipses visible from Australia until 2038. Each of these total solar eclipses—in 2023, 2028, 2030, 2037, and 2038—is sure to bring in international tourists and media focus.
Unique path features
- This eclipse path occurs mostly over water, with limited land viewing options
- The eclipse path is very narrow. At the point of grazing Western Australia, the path is only 40km wide, with totality here lasting 1 minute 2 seconds.
- This is a hybrid eclipse – only the first and last 700km of the path will be annular, with the remainder of the path – approximately 12,000km – being a total eclipse. Everyone in the path, however, will see a total solar eclipse, which is the most awe-inspiring event and worth traveling for.
- Those travelling into the path of totality—either on land or at sea—will experience a total solar eclipse.
- The point of greatest eclipse is to the south of Timor-Leste, with a maximum totality of 1 minute 16 seconds.
- The best weather prospects along the path will be near to where the path grazes Australia and into the southern part of the Timor Sea. Beyond this, the path heads into the more unstable equatorial weather.
- All of Australia and most of South East Asia will see a partial solar eclipse.
- Most international eclipse chasers are booking on cruise ships given the significant challenges of securing accommodation and flights to the North West Cape region.
- Viewing the total eclipse from Timor-Leste and West Papua may be more challenging in terms of the weather, but may provide exciting options for the more adventurous who are willing to take that risk.
Special planning considerations
- The global pandemic has restricted travel to the total eclipses of 2020 and 2021. As a result, there is likely to be huge pent-up demand for this total solar eclipse in 2023.
- Cruise ships will be an appealing option, positioning in areas with the best chance of clear skies.
- For those seeking land-based options, the area of greatest appeal is where the path grazes the Northwest Cape in the Coral Coast region of Western Australia, including the town of Exmouth. This path is a rare example of where potential visitor numbers will exceed the local population of 3,000.
- Huge crowds are likely to congregate on eclipse day within the small patch of land 40km wide and 60km long. This will greatly exceed the capacity of this remote region with limited resources, occurring during an already high-demand tourist season.
- To avoid a potential logistical and PR nightmare, these challenges will need to be overcome to ensure a safe and positive experience for visitors and locals alike.
- This eclipse will provide an incredible opportunity for Western Australia. Due to the significant appeal of the region and remoteness, many visitors are likely to have an extended holiday, coming for the eclipse but visiting other key tourist attractions across the state and country.
- For maximum benefit, a state-wide approach that draws together tourism and regional development plans will enable these eclipse opportunities to be fully leveraged, with early planning essential.
The ‘Ningaloo Eclipse’
The Northwest Cape near Exmouth is considered the best place to view the total solar eclipse from the Australian mainland due to the favorable weather conditions. This region is called the Ningaloo coast, and the eclipse in this area has been marketed as ‘The Ningaloo Eclipse’. From here, totality commences around 11.27 am, when the Moon’s shadow will sweep over the landscape, plunging the world heritage-listed area into darkness for just over one minute.
Unprecedented crowds will be planning to get into the path of totality in the North West Cape region within the Shire of Exmouth, creating challenges for this remote tourist destination that has already faced unsustainable tourism growth.
Planning for the eclipse is being undertaken by the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science, and Innovation, along with Tourism Western Australia with a cross-government approach that is providing the Shire of Exmouth with logistical support.
The Shire of Ashburton is just outside the path of totality and will experience a deep partial eclipse. However, several of the islands off the coast of Onslow are within the path of totality. Options will be made available for additional camping, accommodation, and boat trips into the path from Onslow, and eclipse celebrations are being planned. The Shire of Ashburton is already starting their planning for the next total solar eclipse which goes right over their region in 2038.
For the month of April 2023, a range of festivities and events will take place across the whole region.
The following are links to external sites and are my recommendations for further information about the 2023 total solar eclipse. Information and links are focused on viewing from Australia, given my role in planning support in the region.
Start here for the official Ningaloo Eclipse website. A starting point for information you will need to plan for this eclipse.
Eclipsophile.com provides detailed analysis of the weather along the path of totality for every total solar eclipse – an essential resource. Run by eclipse chaser Jay Anderson, a Canadian meteorologist.
Eclipsewise.com is the authoritative source for lunar and solar eclipse predictions and information. Run by eclipse chaser Fred Espenak, a retired NASA astrophysicist also known as ‘Mr Eclipse’.
SolarEclipsesGoogleMaps is a feature-laden interactive GoogleMap that allows for detailed exploration of the path of totality for the 2023 solar eclipse. Prepare to spend hours using this tool. Run by eclipse chaser Xavier Jubier, a French IT specialist.
Check out this very cool eclipse simulator tool. Pick your location (within OR outside the path) and play with the simulator to get a good feel for what to expect. Run by eclipse chaser Dan McGlaun.
The fully endorsed, official eye safety guidance used internationally to instruct HOW to view a solar eclipse safely can be found on this authoritative site. Anything that contradicts this information is outdated and wrong.
If you are planning to come for the eclipse, make sure to explore the incredible sights of WA. This site will help you plan (and want to extend) your visit.
I offered early support and shared a bespoke Australian White Paper on Eclipse Planning. I have provided extensive strategic guidance to the Shire of Ashburton, Exmouth Chamber of Commerce, and several tour operators. Get in touch if you need to know more.
The best advice for your first total eclipse is to simply observe it. But if you want to know about basic smartphone photography, then start here with NASA at Eclipse2017.nasa.gov