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An eclipse in the eyes of Rapa Nui

In July 2019, Hanga Roa is set to play witness to a partial solar eclipse. For just a few minutes, it will be possible to see how one half of the sun falls into darkness thanks to the shadow of the moon. With that in mind, allow us to explain in more detail how this incredible astronomical phenomenon has come about.  


On July 2nd, 2019, a solar eclipse will be visible from one of the world’s principal locations for international astronomy: Chile. This event will mark 100 years since the scientific discovery that revolutionized physics all over the world. We’re talking about the eclipse of 1919, when the English astronomer, Arthur Eddington, proved Einstein’s theory of relativity.  


So, what exactly is an eclipse? An eclipse, whether solar or lunar, occurs when the shadow of one of the objects gets in the way of the illumination of the other. “When one is standing on Earth during a solar eclipse, it’s possible to see the sun covered by the moon. What’s most interesting is being able to see the solar crown which, under any other circumstances, is impossible to see, because the glare of the sun is too bright,” explains Rolando Dünner, an academic of the Astrophysics Institute at the Catolica University.  


From Hanga Roa, it’ll be possible to see an interesting phenomenon, because there will be a partial solar eclipse, during which the sun won’t be completely covered, thus generating a unique effect. The eclipse will last a few minutes and will be incredibly bright, which is why dark sunglasses are recommended in order to protect your eyes. Guests at Hotel Hangaroa will be able to enjoy a tour to a private sector of the island, where they will have access to a privileged view of the eclipse.  


Eclipses only occur every now and then, as they require the alignment of three objects: the sun, the moon, and the Earth. With these objects moving all the time, rare are the moments when they align. The solar eclipse in July this year will pass over the 4th Region, specifically over Elqui Valley. “It’s incredibly interesting, because it will pass over the Tololo Observatory. It will be a tremendous opportunity for international astronomers to come and observe,” Rolando Dünner adds. 



Tololo Observatory.


Chile, because of its extensive length, holds an advantage over other countries across the globe. “Generally, the belt that forms an eclipse moves from East to West as the Earth spins. These belts are horizontal and Chile is vertical, which is why there are more opportunities for an eclipse to pass over at least one of the country’s regions,” Dünner explains. 


The eclipse in July 2019 won’t be the last. Toward the end of 2020, Easter Island is set to get lucky again, but this time with a lunar eclipse that will be visible during the early hours of the morning on November 30th.