(CNN) -- Tens of thousands of tourists, scientists and amateur astronomers gathered Wednesday along Australia's northern tip to witness a rare total solar eclipse.
For just two eerie minutes in the early hours of the morning local time, the country - known for its blistering sunshine - was plunged into a chilly darkness.
Onlookers gathered at vantage points on beaches, in boats and even hot air balloons to catch a glimpse of the celestial light show which, according to NASA, is unlikely to be seen again in the same region for another 360 years.
A solar eclipse happens when the moon, as it orbits Earth, passes directly in front of the sun, obscuring its rays and casting a shadow on Earth's surface. Sometimes referred to as a "happy accident of nature," a total solar eclipse occurs when the moon is perfectly aligned with both the sun and Earth, so it appears from our perspective that the sun is completely blocked.
iReporters were on hand to capture this extraordinary astronomical moment for CNN, sending in images from across the region -- from Australia, New Zealand and even from a cruise ship hundreds of miles off the Australian coast.
"The weather almost killed it -- there were heavy clouds at the start and everyone was very somber and nervous," he said.
"The ship manoeuvred toward breaks in the clouds and we got lucky -- it emerged from the breaks in time for the eclipse."
"The neighbors probably thought I was a bit strange holding up this X-ray for a while, but after I while I realized it actually looked quite interesting - like my mother was reaching out to hold the sun in her hand," she said.
The eclipse was not entirely confined to Australia -- in Wellington, New Zealand, iReporter Sam Hill decided that, even though they would not see the eclipse in all its glory, it was still worth capturing.
"I thought it would be cool to take a few photos because I haven't seen an eclipse in my lifetime," he said.
Hundreds of onlookers used popular photo-sharing app Instagram to lend a cinematic, retro feel to their sun shots. Many included the #CNNCelebrates hashtag and sent in their best snaps to iReport.
He summed up the mood when the big moment finally arrived in one simple word: "epic".