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Partial Solar Eclipse in Chile

Another successful expedition concluded on May 2 when we returned to Phoenix from the April 30 partial eclipse of the Sun.  There are only two solar eclipses in 2022; both are cases where the Sun, Earth and Moon line up but not precisely so that only a portion of the Sun is completed covered by the Moon.  While I enjoy organizing and leading solar eclipse expeditions they involve  either a total solar eclipse(TSE) or annular (ring) eclipse (ASE) since they draw the most interest.  However, when it comes to a partial solar eclipse (PSE) I sometimes enjoy these even more. Why? Here are some reasons:

  1. no crowds
  2. no overbooked hotels
  3. no struggling to compete against others for the best viewing site
  4. no stress in booking airline seats and other reservations
  5. no overbooked restaurants and other services because of the eclipse
  6. provides an opportunity to check out preparation and transport of gear to be used for other solar eclipses and identify problems before international travel for total eclipses
  7. provides an opportunity to plan and go through check lists of travel requirements related to Covid that come and go during the current year

This PSE like others I have seen allowed for plenty of preparation time and because the path is not narrowly defined it is possible to observe it from a large geographic area.  This partial eclipse was an example where all 4 advantages of attending it were put into play. From the region of visibility in the above map Santiago, Chile was easily accessible by air from the US.  I had planned to go to Easter Island but tourism had not yet resumed there so access was impossible.  So, my wife Lynn Palmer and I flew from Phoenix to Houston and then Houston to Santiago.  However, since the pandemic was not over on a worldwide basis there were bureaucratic challenges that complicated any such plan.

  1. there were no mask requirements to fly from Chile to the US on the return
  2. there were mask requirements to fly from the US to Chile on the outbound flights
  3. a PCR test to enter Chile was required; but then shortly before travel this was canceled. It saved us considerable dollars since getting those tests are quite expensive.
  4. we had to upload separate files to a Chilean migration web site proving that we were doubly vaccinated and boosted. This was a tricky site since it was in Spanish and there were confusing aspects to this. One of my vaccinations was even rejected because the color the pen used was different from that of the other vaccinations.
  5. we had planned to fly from Santiago to the southern tip of Chile and bought internal air tickets.  Then we found out that the one airline– LATAM—that we had to use had many very recent complaints about schedule delays and cancellations. There was only one flight that would allow us to take off and fly south to where we could look out the right side windows to photograph the eclipse.
  6. LATAM canceled our return flight a few days before travel and put us on the next flight back to Santiago.  This presented us with a very short connection time to our flight back to the US.
  7. we found that the planned LATAM aircraft heading compared to the azimuth of the Sun was significantly different and without the pilot agreeing to change the heading for a number of minutes approximately 90 degrees, we would likely not be able to see the eclipse on that flight route.
  8. we were required to prove that we were Covid negative before boarding a return flight to the US so we had to buy 4 test kits in the US to take with us and then self-test the day before our return flight.
  9. self testing was not the same as it was in December 2021 when I had to go through the same process.  As a result I misinterpreted how the testing was to be done and wasted one of my two test kits. Luckily Lynn figured out the correct process in time and we were both able to use the remaining test kits to successfully complete the necessary testing.
  10. As we attempted to enter Chile there was a random passport check and I was required to take an immediate PCR test. This was totally unexpected but I was lucky enough to test negative. Getting that result documented and then uploaded was a real challenge. In the end nobody tracked us or even asked for proof of a negative result!
On the way from Houston to Santiago. Masks required. Lynn Palmer photo.

We used frequent flier miles to upgrade to business class on United Airlines and that helped make the trip more bearable. But here we found that the pandemic had taken an unexpected toll on airline services. United used to be a pleasure to fly internationally.  Our first flight Phoenix to Houston was over 2.5 hours and there was no meal even at lunch time! We were able to get into the business class lounge at Houston Intercontinental Airport and found that service there was super slow and food portions were very small and not very tasty. Then we got on the plane for Santiago and experienced a movie system that kept stopping every 3 or 4 minutes and took a number of minutes to restart–really annoying and disappointing. On a different aircraft May 1 back to Houston the same problem occurred! In addition, the food on both legs was really bland and of poor taste!

Our base of operations was the Holiday Inn at the Santiago International Airport. It was easy to get off the arriving plane and walk through the terminal to the hotel. No problems. However, we found that even though I had booked the hotel months before with specific requests to have a room on the top floor, we were given a room below ground!!

Even later when we the hotel finally allowed us to change rooms there were no mini-bars or fridges in any room. The only benefits of being below ground was that the heating system worked really well and we had a walk-in shower. After complaining about the original room location (069) later that day (April 29) I was able to get our room changed to 613 which was the top floor even after the hotel said all rooms had been fully booked. I really appreciated Holiday Inn honoring this request.  Once we moved to that room we found again no fridge in the room, the heating system did not work (I was able to get a portable heater which did work) and we did not have a walk in shower.

We scoured the airport for places to eat but after checking out both the national and international terminals found that the Holiday Inn was best. In fact their obscure paper-copied menu had food items that we were wary of since there was no real description or photos. But we were pleasantly surprised that after all the hassles with the hotel itself, the restaurant food was really good.  

The photo to your left provides a good example. I had an American burger (twice) which I expected to be dry and tasteless but turned out to be juicy and fantastic. Lynn had the fettuccini and it proved extraordinarily tasty.


On April 29 we surveyed various places at the airport. I knew that the Sun would still be eclipsed at sunset so the idea was to find a location that had a flat horizon. Regardless of our site choice there was a mountain on the west-northwest horizon that cut off the Sun as it sank behind it at an elevation of about 2.5 degrees. So, I found a number of spots that gave us that nearly flat horizon. The area I settled on was a small platform where that night an entire crew of technicians and dancers assembled equipment and practiced on the same platform! This made me apprehensive about using the site on eclipse day. Nevertheless, we went back to that platform and checked it out. Everything had been dismantled and it was good to go.

Eclipse day was Saturday April 30 with the start occurring at 4:33pm local time and ending around 4:47pm with formal sunset at 6:04pm.  I decided to create a laptop timer display so Lynn could easily see how much time was left before the partial eclipse began. I left our hotel room for my separated viewing site at this point.

To give us a different perspective Lynn remained in the Holiday Inn and observed out the hotel window. We knew there would be effects from the glass but it also presented an opportunity to make crescent sun images by an accident of hotel room design. A desk chair in the room had many small holes in it and presented an unexpected tool from which to create crescents.

Between 500pm and 530pm it was possible for enough of the Moon’s disc to block some sunlight to create the crescents. Also, because the angle of projection was offset from the perpendicular we knew the crescents would not always be in focus. 

Meanwhile out on the platform I had to sit and wait for the start of first contact.

While waiting for the eclipse I was able to spot people walking by or sitting down in various places from my perch on the platform. Nobody appeared to look at the Sun and there was no publicity about it in the local newspaper.


And here I thought it was the end of our adventure.  The Venus-Jupiter conjunction which had been ongoing the previous few days was blocked on our arrival but complete overcast due to fog. So, it was a great and happy surprise that when I walked outside the hotel to check the air temperature for my upcoming run that I saw clear sky and the two planets so close together.

 I was able to complete my 2 mile training run on the grounds of the airport. I try to do this religiously during every international trip.

After this highly successful eclipse we shared a seafood lunch on May 1 in the hotel. It was really great. No meal is complete without the Chilean version of Coke Zero.  Compliements to the Holiday Inn restaurant. No mask required while eating.  A happy ending to a very challenging trip. 

We now turn our attention to planning for the next partial solar eclipse October 25, 2022 in the Middle East area.

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