A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the earth and the sun, casting a shadow that extinguishes daylight on Earth.
For those who aren’t in Chile or Argentina, NASA TV broadcast the eclipse live on NASA TV. Clouds and rain in Chile limit the perfect eclipse viewing there, with better viewing in Argentina.
Most astronomers planning to watch the show, which took place around 1 p.m. local time (11 a.m. ET), were already on Earth on Sunday in Chile, in preparation for the show on Monday. The moon will block out the sun for a little over two minutes on a path about 60 miles wide, but the weather is still a major wild card. Modern weather computer models have proven to be encouraging for clear skies.
Early in the pandemic, the Chilean government created the “Paso a Paso” program, a step-by-step program aimed at reopening Chilean society every time. Santiago, the nation’s capital, was at Level 4 out of 5 of “preliminary inauguration” early last week, but the health minister announced Tuesday that the city would return to phase two on Thursday. This means that no one outside the urban area by 5 am Thursday will be allowed to travel to witness the eclipse.
“In a preventive measure and in order to stop the increase in infections, the entire capital region is retreating to Step 2 of the transition phase,” chirp Ministry of Health.
The government has also issued special directives for eclipse goers, stating that access roads to the total route will be closed between midnight Sunday and 4 pm on Monday in an effort to limit the flow of people. Travel on other routes in the Lake District, including near Villarica and Pocon, is restricted on a case-by-case basis. Chilean officials are encouraging those who take part in watching the eclipse to enter the area early and settle in to avoid mass displacement / crowding.
Officials also plan to strengthen random checks of “health passports” to ensure inbound travelers comply with all health protocols and not travel from a high-risk area. A burning ban was implemented on Thursday to limit outdoor camping.
The College Trail in Chile passes directly over a rich and green landscape dotted with geological features, including hot springs and volcanoes. Unfortunately for astronomers, Villarrica National Park has closed entry to the Puesco Strip, which includes three of the volcanoes, as well as thundering lakes, valleys and rivers. A number of tour groups had originally offered hiking and climbing trips that promise to take breathtaking photos during college.
The moon’s shadow passed over the sky at about 1 p.m. local time on Monday, heading east at speeds in excess of 1,500 miles per hour. During the total solar eclipse that darkened a sliver from Chile and Argentina on July 2, 2019, the shadow spread eastward at nearly 10,000 miles per hour. This means that this year’s display will see a less intense reversal from day to dusk. Shadow bands – or the single, wave-like interference pattern caused by refracted or curved sunlight in the moments preceding college – lasted a little longer.
The path of the totality for this year is also slightly narrower, which means the sky will not be completely dark during the eclipse. Because the shadow is smaller, it took less time to pass through, which reduces the duration of the college. Last year’s eclipse in South America lasted up to 4 minutes 33 seconds over the open ocean, but closer to 2 minutes 30 seconds over land. Monday’s eclipse was more fleeting, lasting only 2 minutes 9 seconds.
There is also an area of Argentina in College Road. There are no major cities in the line, however, and the moon’s shadow wanders across the northern Patagonian desert and encounters sparsely populated areas all the way to the coast. Just like last year’s eclipse, no other country will enjoy the spectacular show after the shadow turns away from Argentina.
The next total solar eclipse to visit Earth over Antarctica will take place on December 4, 2021. Good luck booking a trip there.