Science & Technology

Upcoming total solar eclipse draws Chilean scientists to Antarctica

Santiago, Dec 3 (EFE).- A total solar eclipse that will occur at 700 GMT Saturday and only be observable in all its glory from Antarctica has attracted a group of scientists to the White Continent.

Whereas other parts of the planet will experience a partial solar eclipse when the new Moon moves between the Sun and the Earth, some parts of Antarctica will be plunged into near-total darkness.

At least five scientific teams from Chile have already set up camp at a research station located 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) from the South Pole to observe that astronomical phenomenon.

“In our case, the goal is to observe the extended Solar Corona. Although we have space observations pointing to specific areas, terrestrial eclipses make it possible to study the extended area of this corona,” Dr. Patricio Rojo, an astrophysicist and leader of one of the University of Chile research teams that traveled to Antarctica, said in reference to the outermost layer of the Sun’s atmosphere.

Saturday’s event will be the first total solar eclipse to occur in Antarctica since 2003, when scientists for the first time observed this phenomenon from the White Continent.

“The observations we make about the impact of the solar eclipse on Antarctica’s meteorology will help us improve our understanding of the climate and weather in this polar zone,” Rene Garreaud, a doctoral student at the University of Chile, said.

The phenomenon will last approximately two hours, but the brief totality phase – when the Sun’s corona is visible – will have a duration of just 46 seconds.

Rojo’s team and other groups will be situated at Union Glacier Station, a summer research facility located in the Chilean Antarctic Territory and operated by the Chilean Antarctic Institute that is one of the few inhabited places on that continent where the total eclipse will be visible.

A partial eclipse will be observable elsewhere on the White Continent, including at other research stations administered by Chile.

“This base is the only one that’s in the eclipse’s shadow path. There’s no other prior site within Antarctica that is in the path of total darkness (path of totality). There’s a path that runs over the sea, where I understand there are plans to observe (it) from boats, but later its path will cover the continent’s great ice caps,” Rojo said.

Viewers in other areas of the planet like Saint Helena, Namibia, Lesotho, South Africa, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, the Crozet Islands, the Falkland Islands, Chile, New Zealand and Australia will see a partial solar eclipse, in which the Sun, Moon and the Earth are not exactly aligned.

In many of these places, the eclipse will occur before, during and after sunrise or sunset, which NASA says will allow viewers to have a clear view of the horizon.

The Dec. 4 eclipse will bring an end to a cycle of three total solar eclipses in recent years that have been observable from Chilean territory, following ones in 2019 (the Atacama Desert in the country’s north) and 2020 (in southern Chile).

Total solar eclipses occur about once every 20 years in Antarctica, having taken place in 1921, 1939, 1957, 1985 and 2003. After Saturday’s event, the next ones will occur in 2039 and 2057. EFE


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