The Moon will cast its shadow over a small swath of Earth today. But unlike the hyped-up 2017 eclipse, the odds of the eclipse passing over your town are a whole lot lower.
Thankfully, the Exploratorium in California, working in partnership with NASA, is broadcasting live views of the eclipse. You can watch that stream below beginning at 3 p.m. ET.
If you need a refresher on eclipses: Earth orbits the Sun, and the Moon orbits Earth. But the Moon’s orbit is at a slight incline compared to Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Solar eclipses only happen when a new Moon occurs on a day when its orbit intersects the ecliptic, the path the Sun traces across the sky. Eclipses are regularly occurring events, but the Moon casts such a small shadow on Earth’s surface that only a small swath of the planet experiences totality at the same time.
Today’s trail will mainly take the Moon’s shadow over the South Pacific Ocean, with totality only occurring over Chile and Argentina. The partial eclipse, where the Moon blocks out only some of the Sun, creating a bite-out-of-a-cookie effect, will be visible from much of South America. If you are lucky enough to be in the path of the eclipse, remember not to look at the Sun except through special eclipse glasses or by other indirect means, like a pinhole poked into a sheet of paper.
Fortunately for scientists, the shadow will pass directly over Chile’s Cerro Tololo site, an National Science Foundation-operated observatory at a high-enough altitude that the atmosphere doesn’t interfere as much with images of space. There isn’t typically Sun-observing equipment at the site, so teams of scientists have brought up special instruments for the big event. Eclipses are useful tools for observing the super-hot outer region of the Sun called the corona in order to better understand the solar wind. Eclipses also have interesting effects on the atmosphere that are worthy of study.
If you don’t feel like tuning into a live feed will provide quite the same satisfaction as actually seeing the eclipse in person, have no fear. Solar eclipses occur somewhere on Earth every six months or so, with total eclipses occurring a little less frequently. A total eclipse will cross much of the eastern United States in 2024.