Where and how to watch the upcoming solar eclipse around the world

A trial run for students on Ternate island in Indonesia.
A trial run for students on Ternate island in Indonesia.
Image: Reuters/Beawiharta
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It isn’t often one gets to witness a total solar eclipse. But starting tomorrow morning local time (March 9) in Indonesia, the moon will block the sun completely, seemingly turning morning back into night for a few minutes.

This will be Indonesia’s first total solar eclipse in more than 20 years, which has helped lure thousands of foreign tourists. Indonesians are among the fortunate few, relatively speaking. With the total eclipse happening largely over the Pacific Ocean, most of the world will miss out entirely.

The point of optimal viewing can be charted as a line on the globe, as offered by NASA in the following graphic:

Indonesia is in luck.
Indonesia is in luck.
Image: NASA

This might make your head spin: the total solar eclipse begins Wednesday morning west of Indonesia before crossing the international date line and ending on Tuesday afternoon near Hawaii—going seemingly backwards in time, thanks to some time zone magic. This NASA animation helps visualize it:

Even if you’re not in Indonesia, you can still enjoy the spectacle. The Exploratorium will host a live webcast of the total solar eclipse from Micronesia. It sent a production crew to the coral island of Woleai, 500 miles north of New Guinea, for the purpose. For those on the US east coast, the webcast runs from 8pm to 9:15pm ET today (March 8). Check here for when the webcast begins in your time zone.

If you are in Indonesia, here are some cities and times in the archipelago nation to catch eclipse “totality” on the morning of March 9.

  • Palembang on the island of Sumatra: 7:21am
  • Balikpapan on the island of Borneo: 8:34
  • Palu on the island of Sulawesi: 8:38
  • Ternate (city) on the island of Ternate: 9:53am

The capital Jakarta is particularly well positioned for the event compared to other megacities in the world. People there should start watching at around 6:30am, with the peak partial eclipse of 90% reached at 6:45am.

Other places in the Asia-Pacific region will get partial eclipses of varying degrees. Here’s when other cities will see their peak times, again on March 9:

  • Bangkok: 7:32am
  • Singapore: 8:23am
  • Kuala Lumpur: 8:23am
  • Manila: 8:58am
  • Darwin, Australia: 10:17am

The entire viewing experience—if you wish to catch it all—will be about an hour on either side of these peak times. The period of “totality,” with the sun completely covered, is just a few minutes,

How you watch an eclipse is important. Staring at the sun directly can scorch your retinas in a matter of seconds, even if you’re wearing sunglasses—and without you even feeling it, since retinas lack pain receptors. Your vision could be permanently damaged. Here’s advice from the American Academy of Ophthalmology on how to view an eclipse safely, including by using a homemade pinhole camera.

Into astrology? There’s no shortage of advice on how to deal with the changing cosmic energies.

Some people will get great views of the eclipse from an unexpected place: an Alaska Airlines flight. The airline planned flight changes to allow those aboard ASA870 from Anchorage to Honolulu to catch a total eclipse from 37,000 feet today (March 8). Not a bad way to start a vacation—or purposefully catch an eclipse, as is the case with some astronomers on board for just that reason.

Fortunate flight path.
Fortunate flight path.
Image: Alaska Airlines