‘Marvels of night skies in paradise

Wednesday June 19, 2019 Written by Published in Weather
Stargazers observe the 2012 solar eclipse from Green Island in Australia. © Dennis Mammana/ dennismammana.com 19061812 Stargazers observe the 2012 solar eclipse from Green Island in Australia. © Dennis Mammana/ dennismammana.com 19061812

Cooks tourism should capitalise on eclipse and stargazing.

Next month’s solar eclipse will draw astronomy enthusiasts to the Pacific Ocean south of the Cook Islands and French Polynesia.

 California-based astronomer Dennis Mammana says: “There is no mistaking this remarkable sight, and eclipse chasers from around the globe converge along the narrow path of totality with religious regularity.”

Mammana took the photo above, over the sea off Australia’s Green Island. If you see the total eclipse, he says, be prepared for the most unearthly scene you will ever experience.

“At that moment some will cheer and some will weep, and some will stand in silent awe of one of the most glorious spectacles nature has to offer.”

Director of destination development for Cook Islands Tourism, Metua Vaiimeme said events like solar eclipses have the potential to bring in a lot of visitors, however, getting a view is weather-dependent, it’s difficult for tourism to guarantee the experience – which is why there is little international promotion.

In Rarotonga and the southern group, the July 2 eclipse will be visible first thing in the morning. The sun will be 49 per cent obscured by the moon at 7.52am.

Stargazers will have to go another 1000 kilometres south into the ocean to see “totality” – where the sun it completely obscured for several minutes.

Czech astronomer, photographer and journalist Petr Horalek was bowled over by the “marvels of the night skies in paradise” when he visited Rarotonga for an eclipse in 2010.

The Cooks are located in the perfect zone of the world, he says, where the Milky Way is best visible, especially between June and September.

For photographers, the Cooks offer deep views in the sky with the amazing landscape of crystal clear lagoons.

“It’s kind of a shame there’s not yet an attraction for visitors wanting to watch stars in the Cooks, lectures or basic astronomical courses, such as night sky photography,” Horalek says.

“Just a small telescope and a place far from main resorts would offer such an amazing experience to visitors and residents alike, no matter their interests. In addition to the cultural and natural wealth of this paradise, night sky-gazing would definitely have its place among unique Cooks attractions.”

He said the upcoming solar eclipse will be a very nice phenomenon, best observed from the east of the island between Tikoki and Tupapa. “Watching from Muri will be epic, with the lagoon on the horizon.”


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