There are four phases of a total solar eclipse. During the first phase of the eclipse, which is also known as the partial eclipse phase, the moon slowly starts moving into place for the phase of totality. This partial phase often lasts for roughly an hour or sometimes more. The second phase occurs when you might be able to see points of light that are created by the sun shining through the jagged surface of the moon, also known as Baileys Beads.
During this phase, a phenomenon called the Diamond Ring may occur which is when you can only see one point of light. After this phase, the moon will cover the sun and only the halo of the sun, called the corona is visible, bringing on totality. During totality, temperatures drop suddenly and the skies will darken.
Animals and birds become aware of the darkness and become quiet. At this point, you can view the sun directly without risk of damaging your eyes. A total solar eclipse will only last a few minutes. The total eclipse on 14 November 2012 will last approximately two minutes, starting at 6:38am and ending at 6:40am (East Australian Standard Time).
The third phase is similar to the second phase where Baileys Beads and the Diamond Ring may be visible again. The final phase is the partial eclipse phase where the moon moves away from the sun and when light is restored. Again, this phase may take an hour or so.