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Total solar eclipse casts a shadow on South America

By
Brooks Hays
A composite image of the phases of a Total Solar Eclipse at the AURA Cerro Tololo Observatory near La Serena, Chile on Tuesday. The rare event occurs as the moon's orbit places it directly in front of the sun. Totality darkened the skies over the mountainous region for approximately two minutes and six seconds. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI
A composite image of the phases of a Total Solar Eclipse at the AURA Cerro Tololo Observatory near La Serena, Chile on Tuesday. The rare event occurs as the moon's orbit places it directly in front of the sun. Totality darkened the skies over the mountainous region for approximately two minutes and six seconds. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo

July 2 (UPI) -- The sun disappeared behind the moon across a small portion of the Southern Hemisphere for a few hours on Tuesday.

During the total solar eclipse, the moon's shadow darkened parts of the South Pacific, Chile and Argentina.

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At each location, the total solar eclipse will last just under two minutes.

Solar eclipses occur when the moon passes in front of the sun. Of course, the moon regularly passes in front of the sun, but because the moon orbits Earth at an angle relative to the equator, the shadow usually casts out into space, either above or below Earth. The moon's path has to pass in front of the sun at just the right point in its orbit to cast a shadow on Earth's surface.

Eclipses aren't that rare. Partial or total solar eclipses happen at least once a year, and a total eclipse occurs about every 18 months. But the odds suggest a total solar eclipse will cast a shadow across any specific location just once every 360 years.

The last total solar eclipse, in 2017, plotted a path across the entire continental United States, from the West Coast to the East Coast.

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