Chileans, Argentines gape at total solar eclipse

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A woman tests special glasses for the total solar eclipse at Incahuasi, Chile, on July 2, 2019. (REUTERS/Juan Jose Gonzalez Galaz)
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A woman views a solar eclipse through a telescope in an astronomical complex at the University Mayor de San Andres in La Paz, Bolivia, on July 2, 2019. A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun and scores a bull's eye by completely blocking out the sunlight. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
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People watch the solar eclipse, from Puclaro, Coquimbo Region, Chile, on July 03 2019. Tens of thousands of tourists braced Tuesday for a rare total solar eclipse that was expected to turn day into night along a large swath of Latin America's southern cone, including much of Chile and Argentina. (AFP / CLAUDIO REYES)
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A mas uses a protective mask to observe a solar eclipse at La Serena, Chile, on July 2, 2019. (REUTERS/Pablo Sanhueza)
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People stand in line for their chance to view the solar eclipse through a telescope in an astronomical complex at the University Mayor de San Andres in La Paz, Bolivia, on July 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
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Blind people 'listen' to the total solar eclipse at Cachiyuyo, Chile, on July 2, 2019. (REUTERS/Rodrigo Gutierrez)
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People view the total solar eclipse in La Paz, Bolivia, on July 2, 2019. (REUTERS/David Mercado)
Updated 03 July 2019
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Chileans, Argentines gape at total solar eclipse

  • Tourists from around the world gathered to witness the cosmic spectacle
  • Northern Chile is known for clear skies and some of the largest, most powerful telescopes on Earth are being built in the area

LA SERENA, Chile: Tens of thousands of tourists and locals gaped skyward Tuesday as a total eclipse of the sun darkened the heavens over Chile and Argentina.
Tourists from around the world gathered to witness the cosmic spectacle, which began in the morning as the moon crossed in front of the sun and cast a shadow that passed over a tiny uninhabited atoll in the South Pacific and headed to South America. Chile and Argentina were the only inhabited places where the total eclipse could be seen.
The eclipse made its first landfall in Chile at 3:22 p.m. (1922 GMT) in La Serena, a city of some 200,000 people where the arrival of more than 300,000 visitors forced the local water company to increase output and service gas stations to store extra fuel. Police and health services were also reinforced.
“Oh! Oh! Oh!” thousands of spectators shouted as they jumped and danced without taking their eyes off the sky. After a brief moment of silence, the yelling returned as the sun’s rays began reaching Earth again.
Others shouted “Long live, Chile!” — a chant used at sporting events. In northern Chile, meteorologists measured a three-degree Centigrade drop in temperature and in the center a two-degree drop.
“Today Chile is the world capital of astronomy,” said Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, alluding to the dozens of giant observatories in the country, which amount to about half the world’s telescopic capacity. “We are the eyes and senses of humanity to be able to look, observe and study the stars and the universe.”
In the Argentine town of Chascomús, dozens braved near-freezing temperatures and strong winds and claimed a spot at a pier in a lagoon, hoping to catch a glimpse of the eclipse.
“I’ve been looking at the sky since my youth. My first telescope when I was a kid was made out of cardboard,” said Ricardo Rumie, a 68-year-old veteran eclipse-watcher, who set up his camera with a tripod and a telescope with a sun filter along the banks of the lagoon.
“I’ve seen other eclipses but never like this one. I just couldn’t miss it. For me it’s something supreme.”
Yoga teacher Cecilia Magnicaballi searched for the best spot to watch the eclipse with a green mat under her arm.
“This is about taking out the darkness, letting the sun, the light come in,” she said.
Some rushed to buy the cardboard-framed protective eyeglasses at the last minute.
“This is something that they say won’t repeat itself for like 300 years, so we wanted to bring our son,” said Maximiliano Giannobile, who arrived at the pier with 18-month-old Vitto wrapped in a puffy jacket and several layers of clothes.
Northern Chile is known for clear skies and some of the largest, most powerful telescopes on Earth are being built in the area.
“In the past 50 years we’ve only had two eclipses going over observatories. So when it happens and an observatory lies in the path of a totality, it really is special for us,” said Elyar Sedaghati, an astronomer working as a fellow at the European Southern Observatory in Paranal, Chile.
“We can finally use our toys during the day because it’s always at night that we use them.”
The town of La Higuera was also plunged into total darkness.
“We hope this milestone will transform (our town) into a tourist attraction, so that visitors ... can come to La Higuera and take a picture where there once was a total sun eclipse,” Mayor Yerko Galleguillos said.
Town officials distributed more than 2,000 cardboard-frame protective eyeglasses at local schools and community centers while workers built statues of huge sunglasses and a darkened sun on a local square.
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun and scores a bull’s-eye by completely blocking out the sunlight.
Thousands of visitors also trekked to neighboring areas of Argentina where the eclipse also will be total.
The San Juan provincial government installed telescopes and public viewing areas. Astronomers in Buenos Aires province offered yoga and meditation classes during the eclipse, which were also partially visible in other South American countries.
The Earth’s next total solar eclipse will be Dec. 14, 2020, and it also will cross Chile and Argentina, though on a different path.
In 2017, millions of people in the United States witnessed the phenomena, with a full solar eclipse visible in parts of 14 states and a partial eclipse seen in nearly the entire country. It was the first such widespread eclipse in the US since 1918.


‘Stronger than ever’: India set for fresh Moon launch attempt

Updated 21 July 2019
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‘Stronger than ever’: India set for fresh Moon launch attempt

  • The South Asian nation is bidding to become just the fourth nation to land a spacecraft on the Moon
  • The first launch attempt was scrubbed just under an hour before the scheduled lift-off because of what authorities described as a “technical snag”

SRIHARIKOTA, India: India will make a second attempt Monday to send a landmark spacecraft to the Moon after an apparent fuel leak forced last week’s launch to be aborted.
The South Asian nation is bidding to become just the fourth nation — after Russia, the United States and China — to land a spacecraft on the Moon.
The mission comes 50 years after Neil Armstrong became the first person to step foot on the moon, an occasion celebrated by space enthusiasts globally on Saturday
The fresh launch attempt for Chandrayaan-2 — Moon Chariot 2 in some Indian languages including Sanskrit and Hindi — has been scheduled for 2:43 p.m. (0913 GMT) on Monday, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said.
“Chandrayaan 2 is ready to take a billion dreams to the Moon — now stronger than ever before!” it said on Thursday.
The first launch attempt was scrubbed just under an hour before the scheduled lift-off because of what authorities described as a “technical snag.” Local media, citing ISRO officials, said that issue was a fuel leak.
The agency tweeted Saturday that a rehearsal for the launch was completed successfully.
Chandrayaan-2 will be launched atop a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) MkIII, India’s most powerful rocket.
Experts said setbacks were to be expected in such missions given their complexity, and that it was more prudent to delay the launch instead of taking risks that may jeopardize the project.
“In such an ambitious and prestigious mission like Chandrayaan, one cannot take a chance even if a small flaw is detected,” Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, head of space policy at the New Delhi think tank the Observer Research Foundation, told AFP.
Former NASA scientist Kumar Krishen said India’s space agency should be praised for taking on ambitious projects like Chandrayaan-2.
“We should keep in mind that space exploration is risky as many systems have failed in the past and many lives lost,” he told AFP.
Aside from propelling India into rarefied company among spacefaring nations, Chandrayaan-2 also stands out because of its low cost.
About $140 million has been spent on preparations for the mission, a much smaller price tag compared with similar missions by other countries — whose costs often run into billions of dollars.
Chandrayaan-2, and India’s space program as a whole, are a source of national pride in India.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has outlined an ambitious plan to launch a crewed space mission by 2022, and India hopes to seek out commercial satellite and orbiting deals.
The new mission comes almost 11 years after the launch of India’s first lunar mission — Chandrayaan-1 — which orbited the Moon and searched for water.
The rocket carrying Chandrayaan-2 will launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota, an island off the coast of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.
The spacecraft will carry an orbiter, lander and a rover, which has been almost entirely designed and made in India.
The orbiter is planned to circle the Moon for about one year, imaging the surface and studying the atmosphere.
The lander, named Vikram, will head to the surface near the lunar South Pole carrying the rover. Once it touches down, the rover will carry out experiments while being controlled remotely by ISRO scientists.
It is expected to work for one lunar day, the equivalent of 14 Earth days, and will look for signs of water and “a fossil record of the early solar system.”