Feature: Chile prepares for solar eclipse amid pandemic

SANTIAGO, Dec.11 (Xinhua) – Chileans are preparing for a total solar eclipse that will turn day into night next Monday, amid concerns that the rare phenomenon could worsen the country’s already serious COVID-19 pandemic. .

The astronomical event will be best seen in the regions of La Araucanía and Los Ríos, in southern Chile, a repeat of last year’s solar eclipse that wowed Chileans in the north of the country.

Hugo Messias, an astronomer at the Atacama Large Millimeter / submillimeter Array (ALMA), the largest and highest astronomical observatory on earth, told international media during a virtual press conference on Thursday that the event has generated great interest among the community. scientific.

“There are parts of the sun that can only be observed during a total eclipse,” Messias said from the observatory located in the Atacama desert in Chile, the driest in the world, and the observatory is more than 5,000 meters above sea level. .

“We are used to hearing that the surface of the sun … is between 5,000 and 10,000 degrees, and that’s a lot for us. But a little further in, it’s already a million degrees, and that’s very rare and still scientists they don’t know how to explain it, “he said, adding that the eclipse could shed some light on the matter.

While scientists eagerly anticipate the event, local officials fear potential crowds and a consequent increase in COVID-19, leading them to impose some restrictions on those planning to visit the region.

La Araucania government spokeswoman Pia Bersezio told reporters at the same conference that the pandemic “changed many of the scenarios” that the authorities had envisioned for what was being promoted as Eclipse 2020.

“What we wanted was to promote the region of La Araucanía as a tourist destination worldwide, a product with all the natural beauty of landscapes, rich gastronomy, traditions and cultures that we have here. But obviously we had to change course and focus on a responsible and safe Eclipse, “said Bersezio.

With 108 new cases reported last day, La Araucania ranks fourth nationwide in number of daily cases.

As an alternative to observing the eclipse in person, the ALMA Observatory announced earlier this month that it will broadcast the event live on social media.

Continental Chile will not see another eclipse like this until November 25, 2049, according to ALMA. Final product