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Total Solar Eclipse: Chile 2019

On July 2, 2019, a total solar eclipse will be visible across parts of Chile and Argentina. The narrow band where totality will be observed passes less than a mile from the Giant Magellan Telescope site at the edge of the Atacama Desert in Chile. GMTO will be holding a special, private event to watch the eclipse at a location not far from the GMT site.

The path of totality for the total solar eclipse on July 2, 2019. The path travels close to the GMT site.

Chile is one of the best places on Earth for astronomy. The coastal mountains in the Atacama Desert provide clear and dry air and high altitude away from light-polluting cities. Views of the night-sky are unparalleled, with more than 300 clear nights a year. It has been estimated that by the mid-2020s Chile will host over 70% of the collecting area of the world’s astronomical telescopes, including the GMT.

The last total solar eclipse was the Great American Eclipse of August 2017. A number of GMTO staff witnessed this event in different places in the U.S.

This year’s total eclipse will occur in the Southern Hemisphere’s winter, contrasting to mid-summer for the U.S. eclipse. In addition, for the majority of people who will see the eclipse in South America, totality will occur near the end of the day when the Sun is low on the horizon – at an elevation of only 13 degrees at our viewing site (10 degrees can be visualized by looking at the width of your fist at arm’s length).

At our location in Chile, the partial phase of the eclipse will start at 3:23:49 pm local time. As the Moon covers more and more of the disk of the Sun, we will notice some changes in the environment – shadows will become sharper, the light may seem strange, the air may become colder. Animals and birds may behave strangely. Just before the totality phase begins, we may see the shadow of the Moon approaching rapidly across the land from behind us.

At 4:39:37 pm, the Sun will be completely covered by the Moon and we will see only a black disk in the sky where the Sun should be – we are in totality.

“Words cannot describe the unique sensation of totality,” said Patrick McCarthy, astronomer and Vice President of the Giant Magellan Telescope, remembering his 2017 eclipse experience in Oregon.

Around the disk of the Moon, the Sun’s corona will be visible. The corona is the extended atmosphere of the Sun and has a temperature of over a million degrees. It extends for millions of miles into space, and from our perspective on the ground, it will be at least twice the width of the solar disc and may show tendrils and other features. We may also be able to see some stars or planets in the darkened sky, and there will be a faint glow of orange around the horizon – a 360o sunset. From our location, totality will only last for 1 minute and 27 seconds. For those viewing it, it will seem like only seconds have passed!

At 4:41:06 pm the Moon will move off the disk of the Sun and the total phase of the eclipse will be over. The Moon will have completely uncovered the Sun by 5:47:20 pm.

Jennifer Eccles, GMTO’s Vice President of Development said, “It is exciting to share the Total Solar Eclipse experience with our GMTO supporters and colleagues, so close to the site of GMT.”

A number of GMTO staff members will be attending this event in Chile. We recommend you follow Pat McCarthy (@GMTPatMcCarthy), James Fanson (@jfanson) and Jennifer Eccles (@jennyleccles) on Twitter and GMTO social channels (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn) to get an on-the-ground view of what’s happening during the eclipse, and for updates from the construction at the GMT site.

“We are very much looking forward to seeing the total solar eclipse in July. We will also enjoy the spectacular Chilean night sky and get a first-hand look at the progress of construction at the GMT site,” said McCarthy. “It promises to be a great week.”