In exactly one year, a total solar eclipse will cross Chile and Argentina.
That's why, if you've never visited South America, the closing weeks of 2020 will be the ideal time to do so. Not only is it summer in the southern hemisphere, but on Dec. 14, 2020, a total solar eclipse will cast a moon-shadow across Chile and Argentina for a few brief minutes. What's more, the total solar eclipse will be visible from one of the continent's most beautiful locations. We're talking great lakes, hot springs, and the possibility of observing totality from the slopes of one of Chile's most active volcanoes.
If you've never experienced totality, it's unlike anything else on Earth.
When to See the Total Solar Eclipse
The 2020 eclipse will occur about 500 miles south of the Chilean capital of Santiago. The moon will pass precisely in front of the sun on Monday, December 14, 2020 at 1:00 p.m. local time on the west coast of Chile, and take about 20 minutes to cross the continent, with totality at 1:18 p.m. on the east coast of Argentina.
Right across this South America the spectacle will be easily visible very high in the sky, much like in August 2017 across the U.S.
Path of Totality in Chile
As well this excellent total solar eclipse 2020 map shows, the path of totality begins in the South Pacific and will be viewable north-east of Easter Island before crossing southern Chile and Argentina. The top choice from a tourism perspective is to to visit the Chilean Lake District, specifically Lake Villarrica and around Pucón, which is an area famed for its lakes and hot springs. This is touring and boating country, and a popular summer getaway for Chileans. It's also home to the snow-covered Villarrica volcano, one of Chile's most active volcanoes, which last erupted in 2015. It's 9,340 ft./2,847m, and though guided tours are possible, it does get cloudy up there.
Path of Totality in Argentina
Another picturesque possibility is to travel just across the border into mid-western Argentina, basing yourself at Bariloche in the Argentinean Lake District. It's another stunning natural landscape with plenty of opportunities for walking, kayaking and particularly for trout fishing. However, on the big day itself you would then have to travel about 165 miles north of Bariloche to Pilolil or Santo Tomas on the centerline of the path of totality.
The point of greatest eclipse duration occurs over a vast, arid area of Argentinian Patagonia further east, but getting there only affords you an extra two seconds of totality. However, this area – specifically the 137 mile stretch along Highway 23 from Ministro Ramos Mexia to San Antonio Oeste on the east coast – looks be the best place to be if you need to be mobile on 'eclipse day', according to eclipse climatologist Jay Anderson. This Atlantic coast area would also be a good place to observe from if you're on the way to or from Puerto Madryn 160 miles to the south, where Southern Right Whales can be seen. Nearby there is Valdes Peninsula, home to penguins and elephant seals.
2020 Total Solar Eclipse Duration
Total solar eclipse 2020 mostly occurs over oceans, as most eclipses do on our watery world. So expect cruise ships to be on both sides of South America, but particularly on the west side where Easter Island is likely to be part of a travel itinerary. However, that would only get you 1 minute 16 seconds of totality because the longest durations will be seen by eclipse-chasers on land. The very longest totality for the 2020 total solar eclipse is 2 minutes, 10 seconds just north of Sierra Colorada in Patagonia in Argentina, but few will travel to such a remote place for such little gain.
If you're in the town of Villarica or Pucón in Chile, you're almost exactly on the centerline of the path of totality, so you'll get 2 minutes 8 seconds of totality. It's a couple of second less on the slopes of Villarrica volcano, and about 2 minutes 9 seconds across most of Argentina. However, it's important to stress that these durations are for the centerline of the path of totality, and if you stray north or south, your totality time rapidly shortens.
Eclipse Weather Forecast
The timing for this eclipse could not be better. Since it takes place in the southern hemisphere summer, the chances of a clear sky for total solar eclipse 2020 will be higher than for total solar eclipse 2019.
However,according to eclipse climatologist Jay Anderson, the hills and mountain roads of Chile and western Argentina will make it hard to drive away from cloud, if there is any. So if you wanted only to maximise your chances of seeing the 2020 Total Solar Eclipse, the last lonely stretch of Highway 23 leading to Argentina's Atlantic coast is your very best bet.
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