Chilean clouds, coronavirus damage prospects for viewers of solar eclipse

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Tourists in central Chile, who hope to experience a total solar eclipse, met with disappointment on Monday as dense fog rolled along the coast and rain clouds darkened the sky.

More than 100,000 tourists have traveled to the lakeside villages of Pucon and Villarica, despite a recent increase in COVID-19 cases in Chile, according to official reports.

The moon must completely cover the sun through a narrow, 90-mile (90 km) band of South America, extending from Saavedra, a central Chilean Pacific port city to Salina del Eje on Argentina’s Atlantic coast, data from the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) ) shows.

“More or less 45 friends came by bus – using all the (healthy) resources available to us,” said Gloria Orellana, an eclipse fanatic who said she hoped to watch the security event of her cabin near Villarica, she said.

But rain and clouds wiped out the sun in the mountainous very wooded region of south-central Chile, leaving the best viewing to those in the drier north of Chile, where only a partial eclipse is visible.

The moon is expected to begin its journey through the sun around 11:38 am local time (1438 GMT), and the total solar eclipse will begin in Saavedra at 13:00 (1600 GMT).

Although the spectacle is not likely to be seen through Chile, the eclipse will nevertheless plunge the region into total darkness. Such events occur only rarely anywhere in the world.

Chile saw another solar eclipse in its northern desert in July 2019, the first in that region since 1592, according to the Chilean Astronomical Society.

Reporting by Dave Sherwood and Reuters TV; Edited by Alexander Smith