Once you get infected with Obscuratus Solisosus, after the eclipse means before the eclipse. As a carrier of this highly addictive virus, I decided fly to Chile for Christmas 2017 and combine a summer solstice on the Southern Hemisphere with stargazing in the Atacama Desert and advance scouting for the July 2nd, 2019 solar eclipse (Saros 127) in South America. The path of totality’s final 1000 km/700 miles over land begin on the Chilean coast, close to La Serena, and will sweep in a Southeasterly direction across Chile’s Coquimbo region into Argentina, ending before the Argentina coast, with the Southern suburbs of Buenos Aires touching the path. Chile and Argentina straddle the Andes in the eclipse path, and host a number of world class observatories in the area. This inland region (Elqui Valley in Chile and the San Juan Province in Argentina) bodes well for a high probability for cloud free sky to view the eclipse, for stargazing and astrophotography, as July 2nd is, of course, a new Moon. A note of caution for making travel plans: July 1st, 2019, is a national holiday in Chile (St Peter and St Paul Day Holiday) showing that even 400 years after Galileo’s inquisition, the Catholic Church still likes to interfere with astronomical affairs.
While you are in Chile, you should try to take advantage of the pristine night sky, which is even better in winter months, and world class observatories:
Gemini South, and Cerro Tololo InterAmerican Observatory (both in the Elqui Valley), ESO’s La Silla Observatory and Las Campanas (a 2-hour drive from La Serena), or venture even farther North to the Atacama Desert for ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter Array – a set of 66 radio telescopes at 5000m) and Paranal, where ESO is operating, among others, the VLT (Very Large Telescope) and the NGTS (Next -Generation Transit Survey to search for exoplanets). All facilities offer guided tours but you need to sign up online well in advance. The Atacama Desert, specifically San Pedro de Atacama, offer a good jumping-off point for stargazing and astrophotography and I recommend that you take Jorge Corante’s tour at www.atacamadesertstargazing.com.
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