Seeing a solar eclipse is one of the most impressive and rare space tourism experiences on earth. Following the 2017 solar eclipse across the U.S., traveling to see an eclipse is an increasingly popular activity for those of us who love space here on earth. Luckily, there have been two solar eclipses in 2020!
The first was an annular “ring of fire” eclipse that occurred on June 21st. The next will be a total solar eclipse that will happen on December 14th. If you’re curious about this next total solar eclipse, this post has everything you need to know. We cover the basics of eclipses, why you should travel to see the solar eclipse in 2020, when and where you can see the eclipse – and how to travel to each destination. We also cover eclipse viewing basics and give a teaser of the 2020 eclipse!
Are you ready to plan your next experience with totality? Dive into this post!
What is a Solar Eclipse?
If you’re not familiar with the science behind a solar eclipse, that’s okay – you can still enjoy seeing one even if you’re not an astronomer or astrophysicist!
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the earth. This causes two shadows to fall on the earth – the moon’s shadows – also called the umbra and the penumbra. The path of the penumbra on the earth creates a partial solar eclipse; for a total solar eclipse, the path of the umbra creates “totality,” where the sun is completely blocked by the moon. During an annular solar eclipse, this path is called “annularity.”
What Kind of Solar Eclipse?
Wait… Total? Annular? What? There are different kinds of eclipses. Here’s a quick breakdown.
The next solar eclipse is an annular solar eclipse, where the moon passes between the sun and earth but doesn’t completely block the light. This is in contrast to a partial solar eclipse, where only a portion of the sun is blocked, or a total solar eclipse is an eclipse where the sun is completely blocked by the moon:
What Happens During a Total Solar Eclipse?
During a total solar eclipse, the sun is entirely obscured by the moon.. This means that during totality, the sun is completely darkened, and the sky goes dark as well. Imagine sunset, dusk, and sunrise all occurring in less than five minutes… meanwhile a dark disk shows in the sky, with the wisp-like strands of the sun’s corona visible around the outside. That’s what totality is like during an annular eclipse.
Important Details of the Solar Eclipse in 2020
Curious when and where the 2020 solar eclipse is happening? Read on to learn all the logistics of this eclipse, plus tips on how you can travel and safely view the eclipse.
When Will the Total Solar Eclipse Occur?
The total solar eclipse will occur on December 14, 2020 from 13:33 UTC to 18:53 UTC. The maximum of the eclipse will occur at 16:13 UTC.
This window of time reflects how long the entire planet will see the eclipse – not how long you’ll be able to see it in any given location.
Where the total solar eclipse is visible from land, totality will last between roughly 29 seconds and 2 minutes, 9 seconds at its greatest duration.
Days Until the Solar Eclipse 2020:[tminus t= “12-14-2020 13:33:00″ omitweeks=”true” style=”TIE-fighter”] The solar eclipse has passed![/tminus]
Where will the Total Solar Eclipse Be Visible?
We expand on this more below, but in summary:
- The path of totality will cross over Chile & Argentina
- Neighboring areas in South America, as well as parts of Africa and Antarctica will experience a partial solar eclipse
Is it Worth It to Travel to See Totality?
You’ve probably noticed we talk a lot about totality in this post. You might wonder: Is totality really worth it? Isn’t seeing a partial solar eclipse enough?
While seeing a partial solar eclipse is cool, there are few experiences on earth that compare to experiencing anularity during a solar eclipse.
“What I find most amazing, having studied eclipses throughout history, is that no matter the time period or the scientific knowledge (or lack thereof), human responses to an eclipse are consistently, universally, expressions of awe and wonder, and even fear and terror,” author Steve Ruskin told CNET back in 2017. Ruskin wrote the book on totality, America’s First Great Eclipse, and has studied the impact of totality on human history.
Where to See the Solar Eclipse in Chile & Argentina
The 2020 Total Solar Eclipse crosses over just two countries: Chile & Argentina. This might sound familiar, as the 2019 total solar eclipse also passed over these two countries; but this time the path of totality is much further south than the Elqui Valley and other regions that experienced it last year. Also, this 2020 total solar eclipse will be much higher in the sky and earlier in the day, making for better viewing prospects all around!
There are only two main cities where totality will be visible: Temuco, Chile and Villarrica, Chile
The rest of the path of totality will cross over less developed parts of southern Chile and southern Argentina. It will not cross over Patagonia and famous sights there like Torres del Paine; those places will experience a partial solar eclipse though!
A number of major cities will experience a partial eclipse, including the following. This is the order in which these cities will experience the maximum of the eclipse, and The % represents the maximum coverage of the sun during the partial eclipse:
- Adamstown, Pitcairn Islands – 53%
- Santiago, Chile – 78%
- Lima, Peru – 17%
- Buenos Aires, Argentina – 74%
- Montevideo, Uruguay – 74%
- São Paulo, Brazil – 31%
- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – 31%
- Windhoek, Namibia – 95%
- Cape Town, South Africa – 60%
Many other smaller cities and towns will also experience the partial solar eclipse on December 14th!
Guided Tours for the 2020 Total Solar Eclipse
If you want to book a tour to see the 2020 annular eclipse, here are a few we found:
- Astro Trails also has a number of eclipse tours (and cruises!) but spots are filling up fast.
- Betchart Expeditions is planning an eclipse tour from December 8-19; they are offering add-ons for Easter Island and Machu Picchu!
- Classic Journeys has an 8-day tour itinerary that includes the eclipse and Patagonia.
- Eclipse Travel, as their name suggests, has a number of options for tours of varying length and with a number of different destinations.
- On the Go Tours is offering a number of tours for the eclipse, including one that adds on a visit to Patagonia.
- Ring of Fire Expeditions is nearly sold out but has a time-friendly 5-day eclipse tour planned.
- Sky & Telescope – in conjunction with Royal Adventures – has planned a 10-day eclipse tour; spots are going fast.
- Smithsonian Journeys is leading an 11-day eclipse tour that includes visits to both Santiago and Buenos Aires.
- TravelQuest Tours has two eclipse tours planned, one each for Chile and Argentina.
- Wilderness Travel has two great eclipse tour options: one in Chile and Argentina, and another cruise-based program based from French Polynesia.
There are obviously lots of choices if you choose to go with a guided tour!
Tips for Traveling to See the Solar Eclipse in 2020
Here are some quick tips if you plan to travel independently to see the solar eclipse in 2020:
1. Book NOW
If you are planning to travel for the eclipse, especially in the path of totality, flights, hotels, and car rentals will only get more expensive.
2. Give Yourself Extra Travel Time
Given the popularity of the 2017 solar eclipse in the U.S., travelers are increasingly willing to devote time and energy to see a solar eclipse. Arrive early in each place you visit and give yourself extra transit time.
3. Pack for the Weather
The path of totality crosses a part of South America that is actually quite temperate in the summer (remember: December is summer in the southern hemisphere). Average daily highs will be in the 70-80°F (21-26°C) range; nights will drop into the 45-55°F (7-13°C) range.
It’s also generally quite dry across the whole path of totality during the month of December, but it never hurts to pack rain gear in case it rains on one of the other days you’re in the region. (It obviously won’t on the eclipse day because clear skies are crucial!)
4. Spend Extra Time Exploring Your Destination
You’re traveling all the way to see a solar eclipse – but you’ll also be spending at least a few days in a fascinating destination before and after totality.
As you can tell from browsing some of the organized tours for this eclipse, there are a lot of fun options in this part of South America. You could start and/or end your foray in the Chilean capital of Santiago or Argentine capital of Buenos Aires. You could do an excursion south into Patagonia for some prime hiking and adventure activities.
In addition to visiting to watch the eclipse, aim to be a responsible traveler and re-invest in other parts of the tourism ecosystem in both countries. That’s what keeps astrotourism sustainable!
Tips for Viewing a Solar Eclipse
With all the preparation it takes to travel for the 2020 solar eclipse, you might not have thought about how to actually view the eclipse! Don’t worry, we’ve got that covered too.
Safety Warning: Protect Your Eyes During the Solar Eclipse!
First and foremost, it’s important to protect your eyes during any solar eclipse, including the 2020 solar eclipse. Throughout the entire duration of the eclipse, with the exception of totality, you will need to wear solar viewing glasses that allow you to view the eclipse in its partial stage without damaging your eyes.
Never look directly at the sun during a partial solar eclipse.
During totality, it is safe to look at the sun without eye protection, but it’s important to look for signals that totality has begun/ended. Look for Bailey’s Beads (small beads of bright white light from the sun’s corona) or the “Diamond Ring” effect (a bright flash of light), both of which can occur right at the moment totality begins and ends.
Even looking at the sun with 95% coverage (such as what will be visible in Windhoek, Namibia at the end of the eclipse) can cause permanent eye damage.
If you need solar eclipse glasses, Amazon has a good selection. Look for those which are ISO approved to ensure you’ll get the proper eye protection:
- Soluna Eclipse Glasses – 10-pack
- Rainbow Symphony Eclipse Glasses – 5-pack
- Celestron EclipSmart Binoculars
Pro-tip: If you are traveling from outside the region, buy and bring your own solar eclipse glasses. They fold down small, and then you know you’ll have a safe pair when it’s time to view the eclipse.
How to Photograph the Solar Eclipse
Similar to your eyes, a camera lens can be damaged by photographing the sun directly. If you plan to shoot photographs during the partial solar eclipse, you’ll need a solar filter for your lens; you can also make one from solar paper and cardboard.
Additionally, you should not look through the viewfinder of your camera without eye protection on. If you have a digital display, you can use this to view your shots.
Other tips for photographing a solar eclipse:
- Be sure to set up and check your settings before you shoot. You may even want to try some solar photography in advance of the eclipse so you have an understanding of the conditions and effect of the solar filter on your shots.
- Conditions change quickly during an eclipse, so you’ll need to have your camera set to manual and adjust throughout the eclipse.
- During the partial eclipse, set your F-stop to between 8 and 16, and your shutter speed between 1/30 to 1/4000. You’ll need to adjust these both as more of the sun is obscured.
- During totality, you’ll change from daytime settings to dusk/nighttime settings in a matter of moments. Similar to with your eyes, you can remove your solar filter during totality and shoot without the filter, but be sure to reduce your F-stop and decrease your shutter speed.
- In all cases, be sure to mount your camera on a tripod to stabilize your photos and get crystal-clear lines between the moon and sun.
In the end, photographing a solar eclipse is partially trial-and-error, so be sure to enjoy the eclipse with your own eyes (through solar eclipse glasses!) too.
When is the Next Solar Eclipse?
Following the total solar eclipse on December 14, 2020, the next solar eclipse will be an annular solar eclipse on June 10, 2021. We’ll update this post with details about that eclipse once the June eclipse has ended!
Have other questions about the 2020 total solar eclipse? Let us know in the comments!
Featured photo credit: NASA Goddard via Flickr