Australians treated to rare full solar eclipse

The moon passes in front of the sun during a full solar eclipse at Palm Grove near the northern Australian city of Cairns November 14, 2012. REUTERS/Tourism Queensland/Handout

CAIRNS, Australia (Reuters) - A rare full solar eclipse plunged north Queensland into darkness for two minutes early on Wednesday, delighting the thousands of people who had gathered on the Australian state’s beaches.

In Cairns, the main city in north Queensland and a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, cloudy skies and occasional rain partly obscured the view, but elsewhere viewing conditions were more favourable.

North Queensland’s tourism body and NASA provided a live stream of the eclipse, which was expected to give a A$75 million boost to the region’s tourism industry with many people travelling from around the country and overseas to catch the best view of the celestial show.

Authorities warned spectators to wear safety goggles, noting the sun remains incredibly powerful even when hidden behind the moon.

While north Queensland was treated to a full eclipse at around 6.39 am local time (2039 GMT Tuesday), a partial eclipse was visible in other parts of Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Antarctica.

The last full solar eclipse visible from Australia was in 2002, an event that was only visible in the nation’s south. The next one, to be visible from Sydney, is not due until 2028. (Reporting by Tim Wimbourne in Cairns and Jane Wardell in Sydney; Editing by John Mair)