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Many International Visitors to View Solar Eclipse Next Month in Chile


The world’s last total solar eclipse happened in August 2017. Millions of Americans stopped what they were doing to observe the eclipse, which passed over parts of the whole United States.

A total solar eclipse happens when the sun, moon and Earth perfectly line up. The next total solar eclipse will happen on July 2.

However, the total eclipse can only be seen in a few places in the world. This year, the path of totality will pass over areas of Chile and Argentina. The U.S. space agency NASA says the sun will be completely hidden by the moon for up to four minutes and 33 seconds during this eclipse.

The upcoming event has led people from around the world to make plans to travel to Chile’s northern Coquimbo region, where the total solar eclipse is expected to be visible. Local officials say they expect more than 400,000 visitors to come to the area.

People watch the solar eclipse on the lawn of Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California, U.S., August 21, 2017.
People watch the solar eclipse on the lawn of Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California, U.S., August 21, 2017.

A total solar eclipse is rare. The European Southern Observatory estimates that any specific place on earth sees just one, on average, once every 360 years. Visitors from around the world are expected to flood Coquimbo in the coming weeks for a chance to witness this uncommon event.

The Coquimbo region sits on the Pacific coast at the foot of the Andes Mountains. Heavy demand means many hotel rooms are full ahead of the eclipse.

Flights to Coquimbo are offered by Chile’s LATAM Airlines as well as low-cost carriers Sky and JETSMART. Travel companies report airline tickets are selling out very fast.

A clock in the coastal town of La Serena shows a countdown to the big day. “People have gone mad,” one person from the town told Reuters about all the local excitement. “They want the day to come as soon as possible.”

Chile is a popular place for astronomers to visit. The country has many large, international research telescopes.

“It’s a unique occasion,” Chilean astronomer Ivo Saviane told Reuters from the La Silla Observatory that he oversees. “For everyone, whether from Chile or abroad, it’s exciting.”

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera is one of 150 “VIPs” with tickets to watch the eclipse at La Silla. Piñera has identified the eclipse as one of the most important events in Chile this year. The country is set to hold several major international conferences in 2019.

Luis Calderon is an engineer in La Serena. He told Reuters he thinks that the cost and effort of visiting Chile will be well worth it. “You have to be here to see it, even if it is just a couple of minutes,” he said.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on a report from Reuters and online sources. Mario Ritter was the editor.

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Words in This Story

region n. a particular area in a country of the world

visible adj. able to be seen

occasion n. important event or ceremony

VIP n. an abbreviation for very important person: someone who is famous of powerful and is treated in a special way