It's Not Too Early to Start Thinking About the July 2019 Solar Eclipse

It'll be Tuesday, July 2, and the path of totality will cross Chile and Argentina.

Total Eclipse of the sun
Getty ImagesThe Washington Post

If the Great American Eclipse of August 2017 left you hungry for another colossal cosmic event, then you're in luck—sort of. The next total solar eclipse is coming on July 2, 2019. But you'll have to hop a plane, because this one will be visible in parts of

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The area shaded in gray is the path of totality—the places that will experience complete darkness.
Wikimedia CommonsFernando de Gorocica

Being in the path of totality of a total solar eclipse is a rare experience impossible to completely replicate. The sky goes completely dark; birds stop singing; bees stop buzzing; some spiders even dismantle their webs. It can also lead to some pretty incredible photography, as we saw in 2017 when the path of totality crossed the continental United States.

What Happens During a Total Solar Eclipse?

A solar eclipse occurs when the Earth, the moon, and the sun are lined up so that the moon passes directly between the sun and the Earth, blocking all sunlight. The reason this doesn't happen every month (the moon is, after all, orbiting continuously around the sun) is that the moon's orbit is generally at a slight angle relative to the Earth's orbit around the sun. For a solar eclipse to happen, the moon has to cross the Earth's plane at the same time that it's sitting between the Earth and the sun. That happens only about once every 18 months.

Solar and Lunar Eclipses
The moon has to sit in between the sun and the Earth—and crucially, the moon's and Earth's orbits must be on the same plane—in order for a total solar eclipse to occur.
Getty Imagespialhovik

Because the sun is completely blocked out, unlike in a partial solar eclipse, it's possible to look directly at the moon without any eye protection. (Although you still want to be very cautious.)

What's Going to Happen This Year?

On July 2, the partial eclipse will begin at 12:55 p.m. EST. (That's 4:55 p.m. UTC, for our international readers.) Totality will last for four minutes and 33 seconds‚ but will be mostly over the Pacific Ocean; it will reach land near the city of La Serena, Chile, at 2:39 p.m. EST. By 3:40 p.m. EST, the partial eclipse will be over as well, and the moon's shadow will have passed across the continent and back over to the Atlantic Ocean.

Since the eclipse is happening so close to sunset, the best views are likely to be in Chile, where totality will occur while the sun is farther above the western horizon. There will also be partial views from parts of the South Pacific, like Easter Island and the Pitcairn islands.

How Can I Watch?

Should you be tempted to fly down and see it in person, check out our guide to finding cheap flights. But if you can't make it to South America, follow along with the and the La Silla Observatory, both in Chile. Each observatory lies within the path of the eclipse and is sure to be sharing images of the event.

What If I Miss It?

The next total solar eclipse to hit the United States will happen on April 8, 2024, and will pass across the eastern part of the country. It's not too early to start planning—especially since campsite reservations during the August 2017 event went fast. Might as well set that reminder alert now.

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Paths of the August 2017 and April 2024 total solar eclipses.
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Meanwhile, there's plenty of meteor showers and other interesting phenomena to see in the sky in 2019. Most importantly, we'll see a lunar eclipse in which the moon turns blood red on January 21, 2019, so mark that on your calendar.

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