This Tuesday, July 2, thousands of people in South America will return to the sky to contemplate a solar eclipse, although only in some areas of Chile and Argentina it will be total, a fascinating moment that also gives science an opportunity to study our star.
What is a total eclipse?
Eclipse, according to the Dictionary of the Spanish Language, comes from the Greek "ékleipsis", which means disappearance and that is precisely what will happen today. The Sun disappears for a few minutes because the Moon as a result of its movement around the Earth will be between them and produce a fringe of temporary darkness.
In a total eclipse the Moon covers the solar disk, which offers a unique opportunity to contemplate, with the eyes protected, the solar corona, which is that glow around the darkened Sun. What we are seeing is the atmosphere of our star, which reaches a temperature of two million degrees.
An attentive observer will be able to see the pearls of Baily, that is, the flashes of light that appear around the Moon shortly before and just after the total darkness, which are caused because sunlight shines through the valleys, craters and mountains of our satellite, according to the website of the Chilean planetarium.
Where to see the eclipse?
Precisely Chile and also Argentina will see a total eclipse, which will begin in the South Pacific, while the phenomenon will be partial – the portion of the Sun covered will depend on the place from which it is observed – in countries like Paraguay, Uruguay, Peru and Brazil.
The total eclipse will begin at 18.02 GMT at a point in the Pacific Ocean east of New Zealand, after which it will cross the Pacific from west to east and will enter Chile through the regions of Coquimbo and Atacama.
From there it will go to Argentina through the provinces of San Juan, La Rioja, San Luis, Córdoba, Santa Fe and Buenos Aires to finish at 20.43 GMT in the city of Chacomús, already in the Atlantic Ocean, according to data from the National Geographic Institute of Spain.
In each place the time that the Moon hides the Sun will be variable and the maximum will be produced about a thousand kilometers from the Chilean Easter Island, where the duration will be 4 minutes and 32.8 seconds.
In places like La Serena (Chile) the duration of the whole will be 2 minutes and 15 seconds; while in the Argentine of Río Cuarto and Junín it will be able to be seen during 1 minute and 58 seconds, and 2 minutes respectively.
The average speed of the shadow of the Moon crossing South America will be 2735 kilometers per hour, which is 2.5 times faster than a supersonic jet.
Among the countries where the eclipse will be partial, as in Peru, the Sun will hide by 60% in the regions of Tacna, Moquegua and Puno; in Lima the proportion will be 50% and in the north of the country 30%, indicates the Space Agency of that country.
An opportunity for science
In this case it has been "a spectacular stroke of astronomical luck", according to a statement from the Chilean Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), as the eclipse will pass over the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, a complex of telescopes and astronomical instruments located at a height of 2200 meters above sea level.
That stroke of luck will be used by five international teams of "top-notch" scientists to study the event.
Among them a Spanish team, headed by Miquel Serra-Ricart of the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands, which will investigate the changes in the temperature of the Earth's atmosphere, particularly the ionosphere, as the shadow passes over, which has a great value for predictions of space weather.
The other teams will be interested in photograph the Sun's crown, will use advanced techniques to decipher the chemical composition, temperature and density of the different coronal plasma components, and will analyze the magnetic field of our star.
To observe an eclipse requires a place with good visibility, that there are no clouds, but, above all, protect the eyes with a suitable glasses that block the ultraviolet and infrared light, recalls Aura. Therefore, options such as several overlapping traditional sunglasses, radiographs or burnt glasses are discarded.
And in the event that it can not be seen on this occasion, exceptionally we will only have to wait until December 14 of next year for a new total solar eclipse to occur in South America.
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