Michael Zeiler, greatamericaneclipse.com
Billions of fish in the Pacific Ocean will undergo an impressive celestial event on July 2nd. This is because a total eclipse will be visible over a huge strip of the southern Pacific Ocean.
Land animals, including people in the Pacific Ocean Chile and Argentina, as well as anyone connected to the Internet, will be able to watch the entire spectacle. And most parts of South America will be able to see a partial solar eclipse.
A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes in front of the sun. In an amazing cosmic coincidence, the moon is 400 times smaller than the Sun, but also 400 times closer – from Earth they seem to be the same size.
Astronomers estimate solar eclipses because they have the opportunity to study the solar corona, a layer of extremely hot gases that travel thousands of kilometers from the sun's surface is located. The corona is actually hotter than the sun's surface, which remains a bit puzzling.
Eclipses were also important for physicists. In 1919, an astronomer named Arthur Stanley Eddington set about testing Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity. One of the predictions was that the gravitation of the sun could bend the light of a star more than traditional gravity theories predict. Eddington helped organize two expeditions – to Sobral in Brazil and to the island of Principe off the coast of West Africa – to observe the total solar eclipse on May 29, 1919. Their measurements confirmed that Einstein's theory was correct.
A team of astronomers from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Arizona and students from the University of La Serena in Chile will try to repeat Eddington's observations. The eclipse will take place directly over the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory of the National Science Foundation near La Serena.
Incidentally, there will be no eclipses in the long run. The orbit of the moon is a bit further from Earth each year. Barely. In 600 million years, however, it will appear too small to completely cover the sun.
Zauderer, you are warned.