Chile, Argentina witness rare solar eclipse | News | DW | 03.07.2019
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Chile, Argentina witness rare solar eclipse

A southern part of Latin America was plunged into darkness as thousands of people gathered to see a solar eclipse, when the moon passes in front of the sun and temporarily darkens the Earth.

Thousands of stargazers and tourists turned out across Chile and Argentina on Tuesday afternoon to observe a rare solar eclipse.

The sky darkened as the moon moved in front of the sun and cast its shadow down below, plunging a vast swath of Latin America's southern region into darkness.

"In the past 50 years we've only had two eclipses going over observatories. So when it happens and an observatory lies in the path of a totality, it really is special for us," said Elyar Sedaghati, an astronomer at the European Southern Observatory in Paranal, Chile.

Both Chile and Argentina were situated under the narrow, 6,000-mile (9,650-kilometer) band of Earth that experienced the eclipse.

The natural spectacle began at 1:01 p.m. (1701 UTC) in the Pacific Ocean, and a 95 mile-wide band of total darkness reached Chile's coast at 4:38 p.m. (2038 UTC), before crossing into southeastern Argentina and the South Atlantic ocean.

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The solar eclipse is seen from Coquimbo, Chile (Reuters/R. Garrido )

The solar eclipse is seen from Coquimbo, Chile

Crowds gather to witness eclipse

People flocked to Chile's northern Coquimbo region near the Atacama desert, which was situated directly on the eclipse's 95-mile-wide "path of totality."

Large crowds also gathered in the town of La Higuera, some 2,400 meters above sea level and near the landmark La Silla Observatory, operated by the European Southern Observatory.

To the west, in the coastal town of La Serena, thousands of people congregated at the beach and cheered and clapped when the moon passed in front of the sun and blocked it out completely.

"This is something that they say won't repeat itself for like 300 years, so we wanted to bring our son," said Maximiliano Giannobile in Chile. 

Most people witnessed the event wearing special sunglasses, or using telescopes or cameras with special filters.

"The truth is that even if one knows what's going on, it is shocking the minute that the shadow of darkness begins to come and that silence begins," astronomer Sonia Duffau told French news agency AFP.

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'We have waited so long'

Chile's President Sebastian Pinera joined the crowds at La Higuera to witness the eclipse.

"Today is a very important day and one we have waited for so long," said Pinera.

Pinera said Chile was "the capital of the world in terms of astronomy, we are the eyes and the senses of humanity, being able to look, observe and study the stars and the Universe."

Outside the path of the total solar eclipse, a partial eclipse was visible in the rest of Chile and Argentina as well as Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and parts of Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela and Panama, according to the US space agency NASA.

law/amp (AFP, AP, dpa)

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