December 3, 2021 | Knowledge & Science

Team led by Chilean astrophysicist to study total solar eclipse in Antarctica

Team led by Chilean astrophysicist to study total solar eclipse in Antarctica | Marca Chile

The solar eclipse on December 4 will be the second one to be documented from the White Continent and there will not be another one until 2039.

Universidad de Chile researchers are set to study the total solar eclipse that will be visible in Antarctica at 4 a.m. Continental Chile time (UTC-3) on December 4. The team, which is already in place at the Unión Glacier Joint Scientific Polar Station, is led by the Chilean astrophysicist Patricio Rojo and also includes René Garreaud, doctor in atmospheric sciences, and doctoral student Nitya Pandey.

The scientists have taken astronomical instruments to the site in order to efficiently record the eclipse, which will last about two hours, although the duration of total coverage will be 46 seconds. Cameras, lenses, spectrographs and atmospheric sensors will make it possible to document the event, which will not occur again until 2039.

Patricio Rojo, doctor in astrophysics and director of the Universidad de Chile’s Astronomy Department, is one of three Chileans to have an asteroid named after them. This select group is made up of Mario Hamuy and José Maza, both of whom have been awarded the National Prize for Exact Sciences. Patricio Rojo explained that this will be the fifth total solar eclipse he will witness; he was in Shanghai in 2009, Easter Island in 2010, Coquimbo in 2019 and the Araucanía Region in 2020.

“The first expedition to observe an eclipse from Antarctica took place in 2003, when measurements were taken at ground level. There have not been any more eclipses in the area until now, so this will be the second opportunity to measure and take atmospheric data. We are bringing instruments and sensors to take measurements at different heights above ground level,” said the astronomer.

Measuring the total solar eclipse from Antarctica highlights just how valuable the Antarctic territory is to various scientific disciplines, including astronomy. The Chilean Antarctic Institute (INACH) undertakes expeditions to Antarctic bases every year to carry out different scientific studies and establish the polar territory as a natural laboratory for studying climate change.

“Global warming occurs mainly in polar regions. There is surface melting of the ice,” explained Marcelo Leppe, director of INACH. Through scientific expeditions, the institute seeks to encourage the development of scientific, technological and innovation research in Antarctica, as well as promote the Magallanes Region as a gateway to the White Continent and share information about Antarctic-related topics with the general public.

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