A solar eclipse as seen from De Soto, United States. (Russ Ward)

A southern solar eclipse

A total solar eclipse will be passing over parts of South America on December 14.

Parts of the Southern Hemisphere will be treated to a total solar eclipse December 14, when the new Moon passes across the face of the Sun and briefly blots out the view. The view will not be visible in Canada, but even if you can’t make it to the eclipse site there will be opportunities to view the show online. Here’s how to see the eclipse, and how to view it.

When and where to see it

Special safety note: Never look directly at the sun during partial eclipses (or at any other time except totality) unless you’re using special equipment to protect your eyes. During totality, when the Moon completely blocks the Sun, you may look at the sun for a few seconds before putting your equipment back on. NASA has a guide to protecting your eyes, as well as binoculars or telescopes, from getting damaged. Be sure to follow guidelines carefully.

The eclipse time and length highly depends on the region in which you are watching the event. As the area under partial eclipse passes over the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, regions seeing at least the partial eclipse will be much of South America and the southwestern tip of Africa, according to the Observer’s Handbook. On land, countries experiencing the total eclipse will be Chile and Argentina.

In any region experiencing totality, the eclipse will only last a few seconds or minutes. The time when the full eclipse first becomes possible to see will be at 9:32 a.m. EDT (1432 GMT). The Observer’s Handbook includes a full list of locations and local time visibility for the eclipse.

The eclipse is not visible in Canada at all, but many astronomy online channels will carry the event. Common options include American astronomy broadcasting service Slooh, and the Virtual Telescope Project in Italy. The websites of these services will have details of their shows closer to eclipse time.

Photographing the eclipse

First and most importantly, make sure that you are following proper guidance to protect your eyes and equipment from damage. In the months and weeks leading up to the eclipse, it is good practice to take test photographs of the Sun (with a proper filter) and the Moon to get used to the camera and its various settings.

After putting on the eclipse filter, focus your camera on the Sun’s edge and keep refocusing as needed as the eclipse continues. Keep your camera on a tripod or other steady surface. Use different shutter speeds and ISO to get a maximum chance of obtaining the right image. Also, make sure not to keep pointing your camera at the Sun for long periods of time; even with a filter, the camera can overheat and get damaged.

Elizabeth Howell (Ph.D.) is a Canadian space journalist who has been obsessed with the topic ever since she, as a young teenager, saw the movie Apollo 13 in 1996. She grew up wanting to be an astronaut. While that hasn’t happened (yet), Elizabeth has seen five human spaceflight launches — including two from Kazakhstan — and she participated in a simulated Red Planet mission at the Mars Society’s Mars Desert Research Station in Utah.