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Parts of South America set to be plunged into darkness during total solar eclipse

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People test their special solar glasses before the solar eclipse in La Silla European Southern Observatory (ESO) at Coquimbo
People test their special solar glasses before the solar eclipse in La Silla European Southern Observatory (ESO) at Coquimbo -
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REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido
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On Tuesday afternoon, parts of South America will be covered in darkness and people will witness the first total solar eclipse since 2017.

Thousands of tourists from around the world are waiting to experience this phenomenon in several regions of northern Chile and Argentina. A total solar eclipse will not be seen for the next time until December 2020, when it will be visible in southern Chile and Argentina.

What is a total solar eclipse?

A solar eclipse happens when the new moon comes between the sun and the earth and casts its darkest shadow on the latter. In a total solar eclipse, the moon blocks the entire disc of the sun. In partial and annular solar eclipses, only a part of the sun is blocked.

Where can it be seen?

In Chile, the solar eclipse will be visible in many regions, however, some places like Coquimbo and Atacama will be treated to the best view. These two places are among the best in the world for their astronomical observations.

In the capital city of Santiago, the eclipse will be visible, but not in its entirety.

The phenomenon will move from west to east, meaning the province of San Juan will see it first in Argentina, followed by La Rioja, San Luis, Córdoba, Santa Fe and Buenos Aires.

These provinces fall in what scientists call the "band of totality", a strip of about 200km wide where the moon appears to completely cover the sun.

The total eclipse will last between two and three minutes. The orbit of the moon will begin to interpose with the sun starting at 4.30 pm local time.

A solar eclipse tourism boom

The National Tourism Service (Sernatur) expects "a minimum of 400,000 tourists" who will travel about 650km north of Santiago to observe this astronomical episode. Most tourists are expected to come from Brazil, Colombia, South Korea, the United States.

Shops in the country have been filled with paper glasses to observe the eclipse, which must have an ISO 12312-2 certification showing its filters are suitable for direct observation.

Local press also speculated celebrities might pay a visit to the area, including the creator of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg; businessman and founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates; and the English billionaire, Richard Branson. Some people claimed to have seen Rihanna on Monday around Coquimbo, but the reports turned out to be rumours.

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