Wed | Nov 25, 2020

Chileans, Argentines gape at total solar eclipse

Published:Tuesday | July 2, 2019 | 5:11 PM
The moon blocks the sun during a total solar eclipse in La Higuera, Chile, Tuesday, July 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

LA SERENA, Chile (AP) — Tens of thousands of tourists and locals gaped skyward Tuesday as a total eclipse of the sun darkened the heavens over Chile and Argentina.

Tourists from around the world gathered to witness the cosmic spectacle, which began at 10:24 a.m. local time, crossing over a tiny atoll in the South Pacific.

Chile and Argentina were the only inhabited places where the total eclipse could be seen.

The eclipse made its first landfall in Chile at 3:22 p.m. in La Serena, a city of some 200,000 people where the arrival of more than 300,000 visitors forced the local water company to increase output and service gas stations to store extra fuel.

Police and health services were also reinforced.

Thousands jumped, shouted and screamed as the eclipse arrived.

In the Argentine town of Chascomús, dozens braved near-freezing temperatures and strong winds and claimed a spot at a pier in a lagoon, hoping to catch a glimpse of the eclipse.

Northern Chile is known for clear skies and some of the largest, most powerful telescopes on Earth are being built in the area, turning the South American country into a global astronomy hub.

Town officials distributed more than 2,000 cardboard-frame protective eyeglasses at local schools and community centres while workers built statues of huge sunglasses and a darkened sun on a local square.

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun and scores a bulls-eye by completely blocking out the sunlight.

Thousands of visitors also trekked to neighbouring areas of Argentina where the eclipse also will be total.

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