Good things come in threes. For the third year in a row, Chile was the world’s access point to a total solar eclipse. After visiting La Serena in 2019, and Pucón in 2020, this time Punta Arenas was the place to be, serving as a stepping stone for sea, land, and air based observations of the eclipse. Christian Klein Lebbink tried it by air this time and wrote Chile Today about his experience.
“The evening of Dec. 3, we headed to the airport to await the arrival of two planes from Santiago that would serve as our in-air observation deck. Around midnight, we boarded the planes; and, not long after that, the planes took off, setting a course towards the east.
An hour into the flight, a beautiful bright blue glow appeared along the whole of the horizon on the right side of the plane, similar to the one seen at dusk and easily mistaken for sunrise: the smoldering edge of the midnight sun.
Gradually, more intense colors appeared, and a blood red band of light pushed the different shades of blue upwards. Then, around 3:20 a.m., the planes headed for the eclipse run, making sharp right turns, directly facing the left side of the planes towards the already partially eclipsed Sun.
Over the next few minutes, the Moon covered more and more of the solar disc, until it completely covered it, and the most beautiful solar corona unfolded itself in the darkened sky.
Both planes followed the same flight path but at different altitudes, adding a unique and dramatic visual effect and making everything look even more surreal than it already was.
After totality, the Moon withdrew, allowing the Sun to shine brightly again, as if nothing had happened. The plane then made another sharp right turn and headed back to Punta Arenas, and passengers celebrated the marvel with stories and Champagne.
The total solar eclipse of 2021 came and went but lives on in the hearts of those lucky enough to see it.”
Christiaan Klein Lebbink saw his first Total Solar Eclipse in 1999, and has been chasing them ever since, from the Sahara to Siberia to the snowy mountains of the Andes. He’s likely to be found in the shadow the Moon.