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Solar eclipse draws stargazers to Cairns

NORTH Queensland is preparing for the inundation of stargazers and scientists in anticipation of a rare total solar eclipse.

While Cairns is expected to see the eclipse at its best, surrounding regions are tipped to experience the flow-on effect from the wave of 60,000 tourists expected to descend on the region.

The total eclipse - where the moon passes in front of the sun to create total darkness - will occur at 6:38am on Wednesday and last two minutes.

University of Queensland astrophysicist Signe Riemer-Sorensen explained that onlookers would see the moon start to move across the sun from sunrise to create a partial eclipse before the total eclipse draws the area into darkness.

"Most animals will react to the dimming of the light and start behaving as if it is night," she said.

"We should be able to see Mercury, Saturn and Mars lined up in the same direction as the sun."

According to Tourism Queensland, scientists from NASA, the European Space Agency and Asia will view the eclipse from land, sea and air in and around Cairns.

Three charter flights carrying 1200 scientists will arrive from Japan and six cruise ships will be moored off the coast.

Cairns Regional Council estimates the visitor influx will pump $75 million into the region's economy.

Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive Daniel Gschwind expects the strong interest from overseas visitors to trickle to the other regions.

"Everything, whether the events are cultural, sporting or in this case planetary, always helps with the tourism trade," he said.

"People want to experience something when they go to places and there will be plenty of people who will take the opportunity to do more with the eclipse."

Queensland Police have even issued a precaution to eclipse visitors, warning of lengthy traffic delays.

In a statement, police said most rental car agencies tour companies were booked out in Cairns and visitors should allow double the travel time to get from A to B.

Topics:  cairns solar eclipse



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