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Total solar eclipse 2020: A shadow crosses South America

Total solar eclipse 2020: A shadow crosses South America


Total solar eclipse 2020: A shadow crosses South America


The eclipse in Chile

Because the umbra initially contacts Earth in the center of the Pacific Ocean, it travels more than 3,000 miles (4,830 km) before it touches land. That first territory, Isla Mocha, belongs to the Republic of Chile. The Moon’s inner shadow reaches the southwestern tip of this island at 15h58m55s UT. There, totality will last 1 minute 19 seconds, with the Sun 71° high.

The island’s northern edge lies at the northern limit of totality. Here, and for 16 miles (25 km) south along the coast, is where climate statistics say observers will likely find the best weather in Chile. Conveniently, it’s neither difficult nor expensive to travel to the island.

The umbra first encounters the Chilean mainland at Champulli, which lies 50 miles (80 km) west of Temuco. As a city with some 300,000 residents and corresponding amenities, Temuco will undoubtedly be the destination of choice for many eclipse chasers. From Temuco, it’s a quick 30-mile (50 km) drive down Highway 5 to either Gorbea or El Liuco, both of which will enjoy nearly 2 minutes 9 seconds of totality.

One spot that might offer an intriguing photographic opportunity is the southern side of Villarrica, one of Chile’s most active volcanoes. There, the eclipse will last 2 minutes 6 seconds, with the Sun 72° high in the north-northeast.

Before leaving Chile, the Moon’s umbra quickly encounters two other volcanoes within Villarrica National Park: Quetrupillan and Lanin, which sit on the country’s border with Argentina.

Chile is a long country, but it’s not wide. The total length of the umbra’s path through it, therefore, is only about 100 miles (160 km).

According to Canadian meteorologist Jay Anderson, the acknowledged expert when it comes to predicting weather for eclipses, the coastal region west of Teodoro Schmidt offers the most promising weather prospects in mainland Chile. The lower cloudiness (an average of 45 percent) occurs because cool air from the Pacific suppresses the formation of convective clouds. He writes on his website,, “The best cloud prospects on the coast are even better on the south side of the track where the terrain is roughest, but the benefit is only about 5 percent.”

After Teodoro Schmidt, average cloud cover goes up a bit, peaking at 52 percent east of Gorbea before declining to 45 percent at Villarrica. This decrease is due partly to the distance from the ocean and partly to the cooling effects of Lake Villarrica, which suppresses convection.


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