Update for Dec. 14: The only total solar eclipse of 2020 wowed skywatchers in South America despite overcast skies. Read our full story and see the photos here! (opens in new tab)
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The only total solar eclipse of 2020 is coming up this Monday (Dec. 14) and here's how you can follow along with its phases.
The total solar eclipse, which is the last eclipse of 2020, will be visible to observers across a narrow swath of the South Pacific, Chile, Argentina and the southern Atlantic Ocean, while a partial eclipse will be visible from a wider region in the Pacific, southern South America and Antarctica. You can watch the solar eclipse online here, courtesy of NASA, the Virtual Telescope Project and several other live webcasts of the event.
Solar eclipses occur when the moon appears to pass in front the sun as viewed from Earth. When they line up exactly, the moon covers the entire sun and causes a total eclipse, while at other times it only covers part of the sun in a partial eclipse. There is not a solar eclipse every month because the moon's orbit is tilted with respect to the sun and does not always align with the star.
Related: Total solar eclipse 2020: Here's how to watch it online
Video: Total Solar Eclipse in December 2020 - Where is it visible?
What time is the solar eclipse?
So how will the 2020 solar eclipse play out?
The partial phase eclipse will first begin at 8:33 a.m. EST (1333 GMT) and be visible to observers way out in the Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles off the southeast coast of the Hawaiian Islands. The total phase of the eclipse will first be visible almost an hour later at 9:32 a.m. EST (1432 GMT).
Maximum eclipse, or the moment of greatest eclipse where the eclipse has the longest totality (or time where the sun is covered by the moon), kicks off a couple of hours later at 11:13 a.m. EST (1613 GMT). The point of greatest eclipse will occur 18 miles (29 kilometers) northwest of the village and municipality Sierra Colorada in Argentina.
The last observers with a chance to view the total eclipse will catch the last glimpses at 12:54 p.m. EST (1754 GMT) while the last to view the partial eclipse will last see it at 1:53 p.m. EST (1853 GMT).
|Location||Partial begins||Totality begins||Duration||Partial ends|
|Saavedra||11:38 a.m.||1:00 p.m.||2m 4s||2:28 p.m.|
|Pucon||11:41 a.m.||1:03 p.m.||2m 9s||2:31 p.m.|
|Valcheta||11:52 a.m.||1:16 p.m.||2m 11s||2:43 p.m.|
|Salina del Eje||11:59 a.m.||1:25 p.m.||6s||2:50 p.m.|
|Location||Partial begins||Maximum||Partial ends||Magnitude|
|Santiago||11:36 a.m.||1:01 p.m.||2:31 p.m.||0.83|
|Buenos Aires||12:03 p.m.||1:32 p.m.||2:59 p.m.||0.79|
|Montevideo||12:09 p.m.||1:37 p.m.||3:03 p.m.||0.79|
|São Paulo||12:45 p.m.||2:04 p.m.||3:16 p.m.||0.43|
|Lima, Peru||9:16 a.m.||10:16 a.m.||11:23 a.m.||0.28|
|Walvis Bay, Namibia||6:58 p.m.||7:40 p.m.||after sunset||0.76|
Unfortunately, there are only a handful of locations where people will actually be able to catch the total solar eclipse. But there are still some places where skywatchers will be able to look up and (safely, without looking directly at it without eye protection), enjoy the eclipse. Warning: Never stare directly at the sun without proper safety glasses as severe eye damage can result (although observing during the brief totality phase can be done with care). Scientists use special filters on binoculars and telescopes to safely observe solar eclipses.
For example, in Cerro Bayo in Rio Negro, Argentina, the total solar eclipse will be visible — those in the region will have 1 minute and 53 seconds of totality and will be able to spot the total eclipse beginning at 1:10 p.m. local time and ending at 1:12 p.m., according to timeanddate.com.
Meanwhile, skywatchers in Villarrica,Chile will also be privy to the total solar eclipse with a whopping 2 minutes and 9 seconds of totality to look forward to. The total eclipse will begin at 1:02 p.m. local time and end at 1:04 p.m local time, according to timeanddate.com.
The eclipse will have an approximately 56-mile-wide (90 kilometers) path of totality and is set to travel eastward across Chile and Argentina. The last location to be able to spot the eclipse will be Salina del Eje in Argentina. The total solar eclipse will officially end off the coast of Namibia after traveling across the Atlantic Ocean, according to In-The-Sky.org.
Following this solar eclipse, the next solar eclipse will be an annular solar eclipse that will move over Canada, Greenland and regions of Asia on June 10, 2021. It won't be until next December, Dec. 4, 2021, that we get another total solar eclipse. This next total solar eclipse will be over Antarctica.
Editor's note: If you happen to safely observe the total solar eclipse of 2020 and would like to share the experience with Space.com for a story or slideshow, send images and comments in to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that the Dec. 4, 2021 total solar eclipse would be visible over South America. It will actually be visible over Antarctica.
Email Chelsea Gohd at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.