The 2019 total solar eclipse starts in the Pacific Ocean and has a very small land track in South America. In fact, the eclipse path ends on land in Argentina. At the Point of Greatest Eclipse in the Pacific Ocean, the maximum duration of totality is 4m32s, which is a respectable eclipse. By the time the umbra hits the coast of Chile at LaSerena the duration is 2m35s. Since the coast of Chile is on the most eastern side of the path, this is a late afternoon eclipse in South America, with the local time for C2 being approximately 5:30PM. Of interest is the fact that South America also will witness the next total solar eclipse in December of 2020. The 2020 eclipse will have the Point of Greatest Eclipse on land in Argentina. (map by Xavier Jubier)
For the 2019 eclipse at the coast of Chile totality will begin when the Sun is only at 14 degrees above the horizon. So this is a "setting" eclipse for South America. In fact, those folks staging in LaSerena and driving inland to the mountains for better cloud conditions, have to make sure that mountains to the West will not obstruct their view of the eclipse. At this latitude, South America is a relatively narrow continent, so the time the umbra can be on land is limited for both 2019 and 2020. For both eclipses traveling and observing throughout the path in the Andes mountains further limits observing positions. (map by Xavier Jubier)
If weather and cloud conditions permitted it on eclipse day, staying right on the coast in LaSerena could be a nice place to observe the eclipse. The appearance of totality over the ocean would be spectacular. Just to the east side of the coastal cities is a low mountain range, if one could climb to a higher position in that range there could be a view of the umbra traveling toward the coast over the ocean. This was actually one of my ideas for this eclipse. However, when traveling internationally for an eclipse, one always has to consider cloud conditions first, you do not want to get "clouded out." So, predicted cloud conditions in LaSerena are not the best along the path. And since this is such a low eclipse, there is a high risk over horizon clouds on the Pacific Ocean. So in reality, this beautiful opportunity may happen (weather permitting) for the local population who would want to see the eclipse if possible, but do not have the desire to drive inland to do so. (map by Xavier Jubier)
If observing on the East side of the Andes,there is a slightly less risk of cloud cover and there is not much of a decrease in the totality duration. The duration just north of San Juan on the centerline is 2m28s. This is close to the position where I will be observing. For my position the Andes mountains will actually block the Sun just prior to 4th Contact. But this is the one thing good about low eclipses, you have the opportunity to frame photography shots of totality with interesting things in the foreground. I plan to do the one eclipse image that to this point I have not been able to capture, the entire sequence of the eclipse layered onto one image with a wide angle lens. Shots like this are impossible with a high eclipse. (map by Xavier Jubier)
This is a graph of the predicted cloud cover along the path compiled by Jay Anderson who maintains the website Eclipsophile. It shows that the coast at LaSerena has a higher risk of clouds. So eclipse observers who are using LaSerena as a staging city are moving inland, towards Vicuna, on eclipse day. It's an afternoon eclipse, so there is plenty of time to drive East to the observing sites. There may be a lot of traffic coming back into LaSerena in the evening after the eclipse is over since this region through the mountains is only served by one road.
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