The Only Total Solar Eclipse of 2019 Is Tomorrow — Here's How to See It From Wherever You Are
Need some travel inspiration? So go see a total solar eclipse. If you’re the kind of traveler who loves making plans, looking at maps, visiting random places in the world, and experiencing something extra special when you get there, eclipse-chasing is what’s been missing from your bucket list.
Whether or not you saw totality with your own eyes back on Aug. 21, 2017 during the “Great American Eclipse” (or just a partial eclipse through some eclipse glasses), traveling to remote and/or unexpected destinations to share a magical moment with lucky locals and other sun-seekers is a great way to see the planet and its people.
Tomorrow it’s the turn of Chile, Argentina, and the South Pacific to go under the moon’s narrow shadow, something that is projected onto Earth about once every 18 months. If you watch it online, prepare to be inspired to go see a total solar eclipse somewhere exotic sometime soon. Luckily, there are a few incredible eclipses coming up right after this one.
What is a total solar eclipse?
It’s when the moon completely covers the sun for a few minutes, though the brief darkness in the day that follows is really only a side show. After watching through eclipse glasses as the moon gradually creeps across the sun comes the real attraction of a total solar eclipse, the moment of totality, when the moon blocks out the sun. It does so first with a beautiful “diamond ring” as the last tiny crack of sunshine can be seen through the valleys of the moon. The whole of the moon is surrounded by a halo. As temperatures crash, there’s an eerie 360-degree twilight. Viewers can now remove their eclipse glasses and look with the naked eye at an unforgettable view of the streaming solar corona, the sun’s mysterious outer atmosphere that appears as a fluttering ice-white crown around the moon. It’s a view that lasts only a few minutes before sunlight begins to stream through the valleys of the moon on its opposite side, causing another diamond ring that heralds the end of the spectacle.
Where is the total solar eclipse?
July 2’s total solar eclipse is visible within a 80-125 miles-wide “path of totality” that stretches across the South Pacific all the way to Chile and Argentina. Totality makes land at Oeno, a tiny coral atoll that’s part of the British Overseas Territory of the Pitcairn Islands, then moves across remote ocean until it arrives at the central Chilean coast at La Serena, then La Higuera and the Elqui Valley (an area that’s home to multiple astronomical observatories) in the Andean foothills, and across to western Argentina at Bella Vista. Though technically it may be possible to see totality as the sun sets just south of Buenos Aires, that’s a long shot because of the high possibility of cloud on the horizon in that part of Argentina.
When is the total solar eclipse?
The path of totality always sweeps from west to east, beginning with an eclipsed sunrise (in this case in the South Pacific) and ending with an eclipsed sunset (south of Buenos Aires). On July 2, totality will sweep across Earth from 6:01 p.m. UT (Universal Time) until 8:45 p.m. UT, though of that two-hour-and-44-minute event only the final seven minutes occur over South America. From any one location, totality is only visible for a few minutes. In Chile and Argentina, eclipse-chasers below will experience totality for a maximum of two minutes and 35 seconds, though it depends on exactly where you observe from.
La Serena, Chile: 4:38 p.m. local time (for 2 minutes and 16 seconds totality)
La Higuera, Chile: 4:38 p.m. local time (for 2 minutes and 35 seconds totality)
Vicuna, Chile: 4:38 p.m. (for 2 minutes and 25 seconds totality)
Rodeo, Argentina: 5:39 p.m. local time (for 2 minutes and 17 seconds totality)
Bella Vista, Argentina: 5:39 p.m. local time (for 2 minutes and 29 seconds totality)
How to watch the eclipse online
Only that last few minutes of the long event, from positions on land in Chile and Argentina, will likely to be broadcast online, so tune in to Slooh, Exploratorium, and timeanddate.com for totality at 8:38 p.m. UT. That’s 4:38 p.m. CLT (Chile Standard Time) in Chile, 5:38 p.m. in ART (Argentina Time) in Argentina, 4:38 p.m. EDT and 1:38 p.m. PDT.
What is so special about this total solar eclipse?
Although will be viewed by a couple of cruise ships in the South Pacific, most eclipse-chasers will congregate in Chile and Argentina, where an eclipsed sun will hang just above the northwestern horizon close to sunset. That will make it slightly more difficult to find an unobstructed horizon, especially in the mountains, though if there are clear skies (it is July, which is winter in the southern hemisphere, so nothing is guaranteed) expect to see some beautiful photos of a totally eclipsed sun sitting just above some mountaintops.
When is the next eclipse?
After the events in Chile and Argentina, the next total solar eclipse will be in…Chile and Argentina! That’s a celestial stroke of luck, although it will be southern Chile and Argentinean Patagonia that experience totality on Dec. 14, 2020. It’s followed by a likely elusive totality in Antarctica on Dec. 4, 2021, before a very short totality in Western Australia on April 20, 2023. After that comes the “Great North American Eclipse” when the moon’s shadow will streak across Mexico, the U.S., and Canada on April 8, 2024.
It’s further proof that while eclipse-chasing is a fabulous reason to travel, if you wait long enough and get lucky, totality is a spectacle that can also lead you back home.
Jamie Carter is editor of WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com