SANTIAGO – Solar eclipses are fairly rare events, and even more seldom do they occur over one of the best viewing locations on Earth, which is why the upcoming solar eclipse on July 2, 2019 observed over Chilean skies will be a truly once in a lifetime experience. Chile is the best location for viewing this eclipse due to the position and path of the moon and the sun, which will allow for totality over one of the most popular areas for astro-tourism, the Elqui Valley. This is not an event to be missed, so if you haven’t made any plans yet, you may still be able to make the most of it.
A solar eclipse can be an exhilarating, albeit terrifying, experience. Humans have been observing, and accurately predicting solar eclipses from as early as 1375 BC. Each culture had created their own mythical explanations for the occurrence, from sun-eating dragons and wolves, to divine fighting siblings.
On July 2 of this year, the moon will pass between the Earth and the sun causing a 90-mile-wide shadow that obscures the sun as it travels across the Earth’s surface over the course of 90 minutes. All direct sunlight will be blocked as parts of the Earth are plunged into darkness in an event called ‘totality.’
During totality observers can see the sun’s corona and atmosphere, the sheer beauty of which has been known plummet people into tearful awe. Nature will also respond in unpredictable ways, as confused animals will try to get to sleep in this unexpected darkness.
Experience Totality In Chile
At its maximum, totality in the July 2 eclipse will last four minutes and thirty three seconds, which can only be experienced in a remote and inaccessible part of the Pacific Ocean as this eclipse barely passes over land. A map of the eclipse path can be viewed here.
Fortunately, the small sliver of land where totality can be experienced happens to be Chile, the so-called Astronomy Capital of the World, as well as parts of Western Argentina. Anyone lucky enough to be in these regions on July 2, will be treated to sublime views of an eclipsed sun just an hour before sunset, an event called “double twilight.”
While totality can be seen in both Argentina and Chile, Chile is the better option for several reasons. Totality will take place in Chile at about 13° above the horizon, while in Argentina it will be about 10°, which means that there is a greater chance of clouds obscuring this remarkable spectacle.
Secondly, parts of Chile have the clearest skies in the world and thus are home to some of the world’s largest and most powerful observatories, such as the U.S.-operated Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) and the European Southern Observatory (ESO) at La Silla.
Get A Front Row Seat
There are many ways to experience this astonishing event, especially for those lucky enough to be living in or around Chile. Visiting an observatory to get an unprecedented view of totality would provide a once in a lifetime experience. Unfortunately, the ESO observatory in La Silla, which is open to the public, has already sold out for the event.
Nonetheless, Chile’s Elqui Valley is itself a center of astro-tourism and has many small boutique observatories which may still have spots available – if you act fast. This region of Chile is also known for growing some of the best pisco in the world. What could possibly be better than a solar eclipse followed by a few pisco sours? Check out this list for some observatories:
- Observatório Cancana
- Observatorio Cerro
- Observatorio Astronomico Collowara
- Observatorio del Pangue
- Observatorio Mamalluca (the largest)
For the adventurous mountain lovers who want that perfect ‘the sun’s Corona-just-above-the mountains’ shot, Western Argentina, just north of the town of San Juan would be the ideal spot. San Juan is also famous for its wines, thus giving visitors the opportunity to gaze into the depth of darkness with a glass of world-class red or white.
Finally, for those that have money to spare, there are several options to see the eclipse in style. One option would be to join a cruise or charter a yacht and sail into the Pacific for a complete view of totality. Another alternative is to shell out about US $6,750 for one of the forty three seats on the EFLIGHT 2019-MAX, a jet aircraft that will fly with speeds of 904km/h over the open water of the South Pacific into the shadow of the Moon, potentially doubling the duration of totality for those onboard. The flight will utilize LATAM’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft to have the most supreme view of totality.
For The Homebodies
Are you unable to escape your daily realities to experience breathtaking totality or convince your boss that an eclipse is a legitimate reason for a public holiday? Don’t worry, not all is lost as you may have an opportunity to view a partial eclipse. Those living in Santiago, Valparaíso, Antofagasta and other Chilean cities can still enjoy a partial view of the moon’s shadow concealing the sun.
In Santiago, the moon’s shadow will cover 92% of the visible sun. The eclipse will begin on July 2 at 15:22h in the afternoon and end 17:43h with the maximum coverage at 16:37h. For a full list of cities and times please click here.
However they choose to enjoy the eclipse, onlookers must remember that it is never safe to look directly at the sun, even during an eclipse or for a short time, as doing so can cause severe eye damage. To prevent any eye injury and still enjoy the spectacular show of the eclipse onlookers can either use eclipse glasses that meet the international safety standard of ISO 12312-2 (very affordable on Amazon.com) or make their own viewing box.
Born in Ukraine but raised in Canada since a young age, Kateryna Kurdyuk has since acquired a Masters of Media Studies and Communication from University of Melbourne in Australia and worked in the education field in Dubai, UAE. While currently working as an English Professor in Santiago, Chile, Kateryna is using her extensive experience living and travelling abroad to contribute as a writer to the emerging independent English-language media in Chile.