Total solar eclipse
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Coming soon: The great South American eclipse

Nearly two years ago, North America was treated to a celestial spectacle which was witnessed by millions as a total solar eclipse traversed the U.S. from Oregon to South Carolina. My husband and I were among the lucky ones, marveling at the sight for two glorious minutes in an exceptionally beautiful setting, Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. I documented our preparations in a multi-part series:

Eclipse frequency

Total solar eclipses occur roughly every 18 months but are not always happening in easily accessible regions. They may occur over swaths of ocean. We were so awed by our Jackson, Wyoming eclipse experiences that the close coincidence of the next one, a month from now on July 2, 2019, with our 30th wedding anniversary the day before, was all the excuse we needed to decide to chase this one too.

The path of the total solar eclipse of July 2, 2019, will trace a 70-mile wide arc across the South Pacific before crossing Chile and Argentina. The moon’s shadow (umbra) is the plum-colored band, with the darker centerline of totality within it.

Our eclipse location and why we choose it

The map above shows the terrestrial possibilities for viewing this eclipse. The eclipse will be total (pink band), but along the darker centerline, totality will be longer. Our home base for the eclipse will be La Serena, Chile, on the coast of Chile (left, along the centerline).

Location scouting

As we’ll again be going it alone in terms of scouting out a location for photographing the eclipse, we’ve arranged to have a car and will devote several days in advance to exploring the area. Dedicated eclipse chasing friends are traveling with Special Interest Tours, which will take them to Pangue Observatory, south of Vicuña in the Elqui Valley, on eclipse day.

At La Serena, we can expect totality to last 2 minutes, 14 seconds.

I considered several organized tours focusing on the eclipse, but most involved larger groups that we wanted. The opportunity to combine this with a stay in the Atacama Desert, also new territory to us, tipped the balance of decision-making between Chile and Argentina, as well as predictions of which areas have the highest likelihood of clear skies.

How are we preparing for this eclipse?

Since we may find ourselves in remote areas without cell phone reception, my first eclipse related purchase for this trip is a good old-fashion water-proof map of the area.  We rely, as most do these days, on Google maps on our phones, which works great in urban areas but can fail in rural regions.

I’ve also downloaded an e-book devoted to this eclipse entitled “The Great South American Eclipse Travel Guide for July 2, 2019,” by Jamie Carter. He has a related website called WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com.

Interactive map

As during the planning for the prior eclipse, I’ve consulted repeatedly this extremely useful map by Xavier M. Jubier, which is interactive. Click on a location along the course of the eclipse to see the start and finish times of the eclipse in that location, as well as the expected duration of totality. (Note that times are given in Universal Time, so you’ll need to convert that to local time).

La Serena itself is south of the centerline of totality and should have totality for 2 minutes and 14 seconds. Our friends at Pangue Observatory are predicted to have totality for 2 minutes and 13 seconds. Closer to the centerline, near La Higuera, totality will be longer, up to 2 minutes, 36 seconds. The partial eclipse will start in Chile at 3:22 p.m., with totality at 4:38-4:41 p.m. and the partial eclipse ending at 5:47 p.m. Unlike the August 21, 2017 eclipse, this eclipse will be towards sunset and in winter, so the sun should be lower in the sky than the mid-day eclipse we experienced before.

Sun position

We’ll again be making use of the smartphone app, Photo Pills for iOS or Android. In Grand Teton, we hiked multiple trails searching for where to be on eclipse day. Using the augmented reality function of the app, we could assess different locations for their suitability for viewing and shooting the eclipse, with an eye towards an interesting foreground.

Equipment

I have upgraded to the Fujifilm X-T3, but plan to shoot a second, wide-angle set-up with my faithful Fujifilm X-T2 which I used for the prior eclipse.  My husband (Photofocus author Steve Eilenberg) will be shooting Nikon D500 and D850, as before.

We will take three tripods between us, with at least one set-up shooting the eclipse itself, possibly two and another one (or two) shooting a wide-angle scene(s) including the eclipsed sun. We plan to scout for a location in the area in the preceding days and to experience this eclipse together, unlike the last one!  Read about our 2017 misadventures in these two posts…

A pair of diamond rings in the sky and a magical, mystical shared experience — I can’t think of a better way to usher in our next 30 years of marriage!

The fully eclipsed sun shines over Phelps Lake in Grand Teton National Park, August 21, 2017, during the Great North American Eclipse event.
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