Eclipses are rare occurrences that completely transform the night sky. People look forward to the times when they can bear witness to an eclipse, provided they remember not to look directly at the blocked out sun.
A total solar eclipse is expected late in 2021 and it will be visible across the Antarctic sky. Author and eclipse chaser David Baron is one of the world-renowned eclipse experts who plans to be in the Antarctic to witness the eclipse when it occurs. He explains what eclipse-watchers (some call them eclipse chasers) can expect when observing an eclipse in this recorded webinar. Be sure to heed his advice and follow these expert tips if you intend to take advantage of this rare opportunity to visit Antarctica in the middle of a natural phenomenon.
Quark Expeditions is making it possible for eclipse watchers to observe the Total Solar Eclipse in Antarctica
in December 2021. Photo: AdobeStock
What is a total solar eclipse?
While eclipses themselves are rare wonders to experience, a total solar eclipse is one of the most rare of all. Even more unusual is the fact that it will be primarily viewed across the Antarctic landscape and islands across the Southern Ocean in late 2021.
A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon itself passes directly between the sun and Earth, blocking any direct sunlight from reaching the planet for a few fleeting moments. The eclipse itself is viewable over a surrounding area that spans thousands of square kilometres. It causes darkness in the middle of the day until the moon's orbit passes enough to allow sunlight to return to the Earth's surface.
How often are total solar eclipse events?
In any given year, scientists forecast between 4 to 7 solar or lunar eclipse events. At least one of these events has the potential to be a total solar eclipse.
However, eclipses are only visible in a radius of a few thousand kilometres, which means much of the planet is unable to witness the event. Additionally, total lunar eclipses are more likely to occur in the same location every few years. On the other hand, it could be another 375 years for the next total solar eclipse to occur in the same location as a past one.
It makes sense that lunar eclipses are more likely to occur. The sun's diameter dwarfs both the Earth and the moon by millions of square kilometres. It's easier for the sun to directly block the moon's path than it is for the moon to block sunlight from reaching the Earth. Due to their vast differences in diameter, total lunar eclipses have a greater chance for repetition than total solar eclipses.
What is the path of totality for a solar eclipse?
Totality describes the amount of time that a total solar eclipse occurs and the span of time that sunlight is unable to reach the Earth's surface. According to scientists, the path of totality for a solar eclipse could last up to 7 minutes and 31 seconds. However, most eclipses are likely to finish before that length of time has passed.
How to safely view a total solar eclipse
Above everything else: protect your eyes. While sunlight is unable to reach the Earth's surface during a total solar eclipse, the sun's overwhelming rays, heat, and brightness reverberate off the moon into a blinding ball of light in the sky. It's extremely damaging for your eyes if you look directly into a total solar eclipse; therefore, make sure you have thick sunglasses on and you don't look directly at the moon.
Additionally, you'll likely want to stay off social media during the eclipse for two reasons. One, you risk damaging your eyes by trying to record the eclipse to post on social media. Two, the number of people who will try to capture the event could overwhelm the nearby cell towers, rendering your service temporarily unavailable. It's best to just appreciate the eclipse in all its glory for your own experience, especially if you're in one of the prime locations on Earth to witness the phenomenon.
Best place to see a total solar eclipse
Quark Expeditions is leading two solar eclipse tours at the end of 2021. Interestingly, we were also the very first polar explorer company to give people an Antarctic eclipse viewing back in 2003. With our two upcoming eclipse voyages, we are actually reuniting some of the same guests and crew.
We encourage anyone and everyone interested in viewing the total solar eclipse from Antarctica to book passage on our upcoming “Solar Eclipse 2021: Totality in Antarctica, with South Georgia and Falkland Islands” adventure. This is a 20 day experience that departs from Ushuaia, Argentina, and sails through the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, the South Shetland Islands, and through the Lemaire Channel.
Guests traveling with Quark Expeditions get to spend time exploring the historic settlement of
Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas). Photo: Fred Espenak
On Day 9 (December 4, 2021) of this adventure, the total solar eclipse is scheduled to occur. You'll be at sea between the South Orkney Islands and South Georgia when the moon is scheduled to block out the sun for a few glorifying moments. You'll be given protective sunglasses so that you can witness the event in all its glory and listen to interesting facts from Fred Espenak, a retired NASA scientist and a veteran of 29 eclipses, as he shares some of the wonderful facts of space.
Antarctica cruise solar eclipse
There's also another cruise adventure you can book passage on to witness the Antarctic total solar eclipse. This adventure is the “Solar Eclipse 2021: Totality in Antarctica, with South Georgia” experience that lasts for 17 days as you sail through the Southern Ocean with stops at South Georgia and Anvers Island, among others.
Similar to our other adventure, you'll witness the total solar eclipse on Day 9 of your journey. You'll be provided protective eyewear and learn the secrets of the sky from award-winning National Geographic night-sky photographer Babak Tafreshi and American Eclipse author David Baron as they travel onboard the vessel with you to share their knowledge of the experience.