Denise Carter | November 14th, 2011
Eclipse addict, one might say, but he prefers to be called an eclipse enthusiast.
Each time there is a total solar eclipse, he makes sure he is in the narrow path of the moon's shadow.
According to Wikipedia, he might be called an eclipse chaser or umbraphile.
"It's a reasonably rare event, which is very spectacular," Terry, who is the vice president of the Astronomical Association of Queensland, says from his Brisbane base.
"It takes place in any one particular part of the world every 350 to 400 years.
"You have to be in the right place at the right time."
The right place at the right time in November 2012 is right here in Far North Queensland, so Terry will not have far to go.
"I've been to French Polynesia, China, Africa (Egypt and Zimbabwe), and even Antarctica - Qantas flew a special flight over," he says.
Total solar eclipses, where the moon passes directly in front of the sun and completely blocks it out, happen about every 18 months somewhere on the planet.
The last total eclipse in North Queensland was in 1847, and it passed through Cooktown and Kowanyama.
In 1737 it passed through Normanton and Ingham and the last total solar eclipse in Cairns was in 710 AD, so November 14, 2012, is certainly cause for celebration.
The next one visible from Cairns will be in April, 2237, so if you're not feeling too sprightly, this could be your last opportunity to marvel at this wonder of nature.
Total eclipses attract people who travel internationally simply to enjoy the experience but in ancient times, total solar eclipses were a cause for great concern.
"It was a really frightening event," Terry explains.
"The sun goes out in the middle of the day, so it goes from daylight to night very quickly.
The last minute, it is almost like a light switches off."
The temperature drops and there is an eerie feeling and animals tend to retire, some in confusion, while birds go home to roost and quickly fall asleep as though they have just witnessed a very short day.
It's no wonder that in ancient times the drama of the sun suddenly disappearing was seen as ominous, bringing with it likely portents of doom and wrath from the gods.
Once, a total solar eclipse stopped a battle that had gone on for years between the Medians and the Lydians, about 585 BC - they supposedly dropped their weapons and made a peace treaty.
"They could see the moon's shadow coming, which would have looked like a big black ominous shadow," Terry says.
"It is really surreal to experience it.
Nobody should miss it."
In Cairns, the eclipse will last for two minutes; Port Douglas two minutes; Mareeba one minute 40 seconds; and Atherton 30 seconds.
It's a great opportunity for the region, with many people staging events to coincide with the occurrence.
As the sun's rays re-emerge from behind the moon's shadow on November 14, the world's first solar eclipse marathon will begin on Four Mile Beach at Port Douglas, with 2000 runners entered.
Race director Rune Nortoft from Adventure Marathons Albatros Travel got the idea for the race when he was out for a run.
"Running is my creative thinking time and we'd just organised an eclipse-viewing tour to Shanghai and while I was trudging through the snow that day it suddenly came to me," Rune says.
The event ambassador is Australian endurance runner Steve Moneghetti.
Eclipse 2012 is also time for a six-day festival in Cairns, likely to draw about 20,000 people.
For more information on the eclipse and where to view it, visit the Astronomical Association of Queensland website: www.aaq.org.au.
Various stages of an eclipse
During the partial phase of the eclipse, the moon gradually covers the sun until the sun is reduced to a thin crescent.
The temperature can drop significantly.
The last parts of the sun's surface shines through the valleys on the moon in a shimmering display called Baily's beads.
When the beads are reduced to a single point, the sun looks like a diamond ring.
During totality, the moon appears as a black hole in the sky surrounded by the pearly white corona (the sun's outer atmosphere).
At the end the sequences is reversed.
(Source: Astronomical Association of Queensland)
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