A highly anticipated eclipse occurring within the vicinity of a world renowned observatory is coming soon, and it’s being called the Great South American Eclipse.
On July 2, a great portion of South America will have a chance to witness the light of day fade to a night-like darkness for a couple minutes, while the moon comes before the sun.
As a lunar eclipse is akin to a perfect full moon and a solar eclipse a new moon, this will be 2019’s one and only total solar eclipse.
While the sun is almost perfectly blocked by the moon, a shadow much darker than you’d expect will be cast over the west coast country of Chile, and all the way east into Argentina. A fainter shadow of course will be visible by neighboring countries.
Here’s a guide you can follow to understand the specifics of the eclipse, and how best to appreciate it.
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The definition of an eclipse
Somewhere around every 18 months but sometimes more frequently, the moon happens to conjoin the sun for a new moon, precisely at the time of year when the sun is at the moon’s north or south node (where the moon touches the belt of the ecliptic).
A region of our planet is then hit with a shadow, like a stripe being drawn across the Earth, as the moon’s shadow travels.
On that path where the moon’s shadow travels during an eclipse, people can potentially see between a few seconds or a solid several minutes of near darkness, more like twilight depending on where the viewer is located in proximity to it.
How is it even possible that the sun and moon conjoin so perfectly from Earth’s perspective? A couple other types of solar eclipse can help explain it. This is a fairly exact total eclipse, and there are also annular eclipses and partial eclipses.
What happens during a partial eclipse is the Moon doesn’t exactly pass over the Sun, but it sort of grazes a piece of it, like someone taking a bite out of a cookie.
However during an annular eclipse, not to be confused with “annual,” the moon is more distant from the Earth, which produces the shape of a ring of fire when the smaller appearing moon partially eclipses the sun.
Rather than possessing a perfectly circular orbit, the moon’s orbit is elliptical, and it has spots where it perfectly conjoins the belt of the ecliptic (north node or south node), and moments where it appears larger or smaller in the sky.
Eclipses occur when the Sun is at the spot where the moon happens to conjoin the belt of the sun each month, the moon’s north or south node, which takes about 18 years to cycle the zodiac.
Both annular eclipses and partial solar eclipses of course dramatically dampen the effect of day turning to night, the effect being only quite that intense during a total eclipse.