PUCÓN – For the second year in a row, a total solar eclipse will be visible from Chile. During a solar eclipse, the Moon passes in between the Earth and the Sun, blocking some of the Sun’s light. The solar eclipse will be best visible in the south of Chile, where weather conditions, however, are not great.
During a partial eclipse, only a small part of the Sun disappears behind the Moon. They are barely noticeable to the naked eye, but when viewed through a proper filter, the Sun looks like a cookie with a bite taken out of it. During an annular eclipse, the Moon covers the whole Sun, but is too small to cover it entirely, leaving a ring of light.
When the Moon is just a bit closer to Earth, both the Sun and the Moon will have the exact same apparent size in the sky, such that the Moon blocks all sunlight sent directly to the Earth. Then, only a very faint ring around the Sun remains visible. This is the Sun’s atmosphere, which, due to its resemblance to a crown is called the corona. A truly magnificent sight, which has served as the inspiration of myths and legends for many societies and civilizations.
The latter is what will occur over a small part of Chile on the Dec. 14, 2020. The shadow of the Moon will sweep across the country, fully blocking the solar disc in a narrow track, roughly following a line from Teodoro Schmidt to Curarrehue, with totality lasting a little over two minutes at the heart of this track. Only then it is safe to look straight at the Sun with the naked eye. Looking at the partial stages of the eclipse will require the use of eye protection meeting the requirements set in the ISO 12312-2 standard.
The shadow will make first landfall on Isla Mocha, and after sweeping the Chilean mainland, cross Argentina and then slowly fade out over the Atlantic Ocean. Though the huge crowds that flocked together in June 2019 for the previous total solar eclipse are unthinkable in the age of Covid, quite a significant number of people still made their way to the sightline, planning to observe totality with their own eyes. Many of them have flocked to places like Temuco, on the northern limit of the track, which will receive about 40 seconds of totality, and, closer to centerline, Villarrica and Pucón, both receiving over two minutes of totality.
Walking the streets of Pucón, it is impossible to miss that something is going on. Banners all around the city announce and explain what will happen, and protective eclipse glasses are sold virtually everywhere; and, although the town obviously is able to cater for a lot more people, the streets once again look lively.
The 2020 eclipse, however, has proved to be an especially challenging one. Covid-19 has had a big impact on everyone’s lives, and it has also impacted travel plans for both foreign and domestic eclipse enthusiasts. Among other hurdles, would-be eclipse viewers from outside the region needed to apply for and obtain permits for international and interregional travel to the area.
Weather also appears to be a matter of concern. The forecasts for the Araucania region look cloudy and rainy, while on the other side of the Andes the Argentinian part of the eclipse track is plagued by severe and unpredictable wind gusts. Thus, even for those who actually make it to the totality zone, viewing the eclipse will remain a challenge right up to the end.
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.