How To Prepare For The Great Latin America Total Solar Eclipse in 2019
May 2, 2019
Just two months from now – on July 2, 2019 – millions of people across Argentina and Chile will be witnessing the total solar eclipse. Both sky watchers and professional astronomers are tremendously excited about this rare occasion.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
A total solar eclipse is an event that occurs when the Moon passes right between the Sun and the Earth. Every 18 months, a total eclipse occurs somewhere in the world, but it might take many years before the eclipse can happen at the same location. The previous total solar eclipse was visible in the United States on August 21, 2017.
Totality Path Crosses Six Provinces in Argentina
Unlike lunar eclipses, which are visible from the entire Earth’s hemisphere, the shadow of the Moon traces out a narrow path, called totality. This year, the totality path will cross six provinces in Argentina, including Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Rosario, Dante Fee, San Juan, and Mendoza. The cities on the path of totality include San Juan, Rio Cuarto, Dolores, Villa Dolores, Merlo, and Lujan, but a partial eclipse will be visible over a much larger area including Buenos Aires.
Researchers explain the total solar eclipse referring to the sizes of the Sun and the Moon and their distance from our planet. The Sun is 400 times larger than the Moon, but the Moon lies about 400 times further away from the Earth. Because of this coincidence, the Moon appears large enough to cover the Sun entirely during the total solar eclipse. Since the Moon moves along its orbit with a speed of 2,300 miles per hour, it will cross the Sun entirely within 3 hours 15 minutes.
Totality is not always this short. Its maximum length can reach 7 minutes 30 seconds. In 1991, the total solar eclipse lasted 6 minutes 53 seconds. Moreover, in 2009, the solar eclipse on July 22 lasted 6 minutes 39 seconds. The latter has marked the longest totality in the 21st century.
After this year’s total solar eclipse, the next one will happen on December 14, 2020, and will be seen again in Argentina and Chile, but further south than the eclipse path of 2019. It is rare that for two years in a row the solar eclipse will be visible from the same countries.
How to Prepare for Eclipse Day
People who have already witnessed a total solar eclipse will admit that it was the most dramatic celestial event in their lifetime. During the phase of totality, when the Moon covers the Sun’s bright disk completely, the sky becomes very dark, making the brightest stars and planets clearly visible. The temperature becomes noticeably lower, birds go back to their nests, and animals quiet down for the duration of the totality. The Earth becomes still.
However, in the sky, a different scene plays out. Where the Sun was just moments before, rests the corona, a circular wreath of white light and the tenuous atmosphere of the Sun. The corona is not like the air surrounding our planet; it is made up of ionized gases reaching temperatures of more than 1,000,000° Celsius, or 2,000,000° Fahrenheit. Because the corona is about one millionth the brightness of the Sun, it becomes noticeable only during a total eclipse.
The Sun’s magnetic field shapes long streamers of the corona, because of its highly ionized gases. The corona takes on a rounded appearance when the Sun nears its maximum in the 11-year-long activity cycle. Apart from the corona, during the totality phase prominences become visible. Those are the crimson-colored pillars of hot gas that rise from the photosphere into the lower corona.
Professional astronomers are preparing to study the Sun’s corona during the solar eclipse in July. However, amateur spectators can watch the partial solar eclipse in different parts of Argentina without having to travel long distances to reach the path of totality.
An estimated 20 million people live in the areas on or near the eclipse track. Anyone who plans to travel to Argentina to see this year’s solar eclipse has to make arrangements as soon as possible because hotels located within the totality path are being booked quickly.
People in Argentina living outside of totality path will be able to watch the partial solar eclipse on July 2, 2019. However, if you are viewing the partial eclipse, make sure to use an ISO certified solar filter to protect your eyes. The closer you are to the path of totality; the deeper will be the partial eclipse you will see. For example, residents of Buenos Aires, the capital city of Argentina, will see 99% of the Sun’s disk covered by the Moon; the residents on the north, for example, in San Salvador de Jujuy will experience about 75% of obscuration.
Our mission is to educate the public about the hazards of the upcoming solar eclipse in South America on July 2, 2019. By taking the proper precautions, everyone will have a safe and exciting event.