A Total Solar Eclipse Is Happening Next Month — Here's Where You Can See It (Video)
Did you see the Great American Eclipse in 2017? It may have been a rare event, but it was no one-off. On July 2, 2019, the moon's shadow will once again race across the Earth's surface for a few hours as the path of the 2019 total solar eclipse crosses the South Pacific, Chile, and Argentina.
Also known as the Great South American Eclipse — and due to plunge some fascinating locations into darkness — 2019's total solar eclipse is sure to be a very special event.
The Next Total Solar Eclipse
The first total solar eclipse since August 2017 is coming up fast. On July 2, 2019, a new moon will cross the sun from the perspective of Earth, throwing a moon-shadow onto the planet and allowing observers in the path to remove their solar safety glasses to gaze at the sun's pulsing white corona for a few precious minutes. This is totality, and it's why hordes of eclipse-chasers will be heading to the South Pacific, Chile, and Argentina this year.
2019 Total Solar Eclipse Map
If you want to experience those fleeting few minutes of totality, you must head into the 2019 total solar eclipse path of totality. For 2019's total solar eclipse, it's about 93 miles wide when on land. The closer you get to the centerline of the path of totality, the longer totality will last. There is also a point on the path of totality where the duration of totality is at its maximum.
For the next total solar eclipse, there is one place that will experience 4 minutes 33 seconds of totality. Sadly, that location is far out in the Pacific Ocean, more than 1,800 miles from the coast of Chile, so not likely to be witnessed by anyone. That's normal for eclipses that occur in the southern hemisphere because it's 80 percent ocean. Luckily, there are places nearer to islands, and on mainland South America, that are also within the 2019 total solar eclipse path.
The 2019 total solar eclipse duration depends on where you stand. If observed from just north of the remote Pitcairn Islands, the maximum duration it's possible to see is around 2 minutes 50 seconds, while in Chile and Argentina it's around 2 minutes, 30 seconds. However, that's only if you're close to the centerline of the path of totality.
How to See the Total Solar Eclipse 2019
There are three places to consider when planning a trip to see the next eclipse. The first is on a cruise ship on the South Pacific Ocean, typically as part of a cruise around French Polynesia that drops anchor near Tahiti, the Cook Islands or the Pitcairn Islands. One extreme option is the Peace Boat's 104-day cruise, which will intercept the eclipse in the Pacific Ocean.
However, the high cost of Pacific cruises will mean most eclipse-chasers head to Chile, specifically the coastal town of La Serena (2 minutes, 18 seconds) and the inland Elqui Valley at Vicuna (2 minutes, 25 seconds), home to vineyards and some of the world's biggest telescopes. It's even possible to watch totality from Cochiguaz, Earth’s geomagnetic center.
This whole area is sure to be popular with astronomers and stargazers, not least because the 2019 total solar eclipse is going to be observed very late in the day, at 4:38 p.m. in Chile. Further into the Andes and across the border into Argentina, the eclipse crosses Argentina’s legendary Ruta 40, and will be best viewed at 5:40 p.m. at Bella Vista (2 minutes 30 seconds) and Rodeo (2 minutes 15 seconds). However, as the path of totality moves east across Argentina towards (but not as far as) Buenos Aires, the low elevation of the sun will make it difficult to see.
July is winter in the southern hemisphere. While that makes clouds more likely, there's never yet been an eclipse that hasn't had cloud predicted somewhere. If you book a cruise ship trip around the South Pacific Ocean, the captain will maneuver away from cloud in the hours leading up to Totality. That's the attraction of observing an eclipse from a boat.
Driving away from clouds to find a clear sky in the hours before the close is often possible on land, but don't plan to do this for total solar eclipse 2019. The path of 2019 total solar eclipse crosses a narrow strip of mainly mountainous land, and small mountain roads, which are not suitable for last-minute eclipse chasing. Although the Elqui Valley is known for its clear skies (hence the telescopes), eclipse weather expert Jay Anderson at eclipsophile.com predicts that high level cloud may be an issue in Chile and Argentina, and highlights the eastern slopes of the Andes just over the border from Chile (which includes Bella Vista and Rodeo) as an area that more often has clear skies during the dry winter season of July. There are never any guarantees.
From Chile and more so in Argentina, eclipse-chasers will hope for clear skies to witness an eclipse just before sunset. However, since clouds are more common close to the horizon, on the day of the July 2, 2019 total solar eclipse, fingers will be crossed. Whatever happens, it's only 18 months until the next one — again in Chile and Argentina.