Just over a year on from the astronomical phenomenon that put Chile at the center of the world’s attention and allowed millions of people to witness a total solar eclipse, on December 14, 2020, another event will take place in Chile that will force us to stop and look up at the sky. The 2019 eclipse took place in the Atacama Desert. The next one will bring us to the forests, volcanoes and lakes of Araucanía and will allow us to connect with the region’s nature and culture. Scientists tell us this year will be unforgettable.
To understand why, we spoke with Chilean astronomer Mario Hamuy, winner of the 2015 National Exact Sciences Award. Dr. Hamuy is the Head of Mission of the AURA Observatory in Chile and President of Fundación Chilena de Astronomía. We asked him to tell us how the eclipse in December 2020 will differ from that of July 2019.
In other words, we will see much more clearly how the light in the minutes prior to the eclipse changes while the eclipse is happening and everyone who sees it is sure to be impressed. In places like Puerto Saavedra, Villarrica and Pucón, people will be able to see the eclipse in its entirety for nearly two minutes, depending on the observation site. While Araucanía doesn’t have the large astronomical observatories that can be found in northern Chile, the event in December will be of great scientific interest because it will help to reveal a mystery that astronomers around the world have wanted to unravel.
The curious thing is that the sun’s surface has a temperature of 6,000 degrees Celsius, while the brilliant corona that forms around it as a result of the eclipse reaches temperatures of over 1 million degrees Celsius. The reason for this staggering difference in heat is a mystery, and the December 2020 phenomenon in Araucanía will be important for astrophysicists around the world.
What we witness in December will undoubtedly be yet another display of the power of the sun and moon when they align. The world’s major astronomy centers already have a presence in northern Chile but in late 2020, professionals like Mario Hamuy who use those renowned facilities will travel thousands of kilometers south to witness this new phenomenon in the sky.