Total Solar Eclipse 2019: Parts of South America Set to Plunge into Darkness—Everything You Need to Know

On July 2, a total solar eclipse will take place, plunging parts of South America into darkness as the moon passes directly in front of the Sun, blocking out its light.

Total solar eclipses take place around once every 18 months, according to NASA. As the moon orbits Earth, it occasionally travels between our planet and the Sun. When this happens during the daytime, the moon blocks the light coming from the Sun, casting a shadow over parts of Earth.

A total solar eclipse is only visible from the center of the moon's shadow—meaning it can only be seen from a very small area on Earth. Totality—when the Moon completely covers the Sun—lasts for just a few minutes, but during this time the sky turns dark as if it is nighttime.

This year's event, which has been dubbed the Great South American Eclipse, is the only total solar eclipse of the year. It is the first since the Great American Eclipse of 2017, when day turned to night in states across the U.S., as the path of the eclipse went from the west to the east coast on August 21.

There have been four partial solar eclipses since then. When this happens, the Sun, Earth and Moon are not completely lined up, so the Moon blocks some of the Sun's light—but not all of it.

On July 2, the total solar eclipse will pass over Chile and Argentina in the late afternoon—starting in La Serena, on Chile's west coast, at 3:22 p.m. EDT. The total eclipse will end near Chascomús, Buenos Aires, Argentina at 4:44 p.m. EDT

An interactive map showing its path and the times of the start and end of the eclipse is available from NASA and can be accessed here. "Outside this path, a partial solar eclipse will be visible in the rest of Chile and Argentina as well as Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and parts of Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela and Panama," NASA said.

total solar eclipse times
Table showing the times of the total solar eclipse on July 2. NASA

Viewers in the path of the eclipse are advised not to look at the Sun directly. Instead they should get eclipse viewers that will protect the eyes while allowing a clear view of the event.

After July 2, the next total solar eclipse will be on December 14, 2020. This eclipse will be visible from Chile and Argentina. The next time a total solar eclipse will be visible from the U.S. will be April 8, 2024.

Scientists are interested in total solar eclipses as it offers the opportunity to study the Sun's corona. This is the hot outer atmosphere that is normally hidden by the light coming from the Sun's surface. Understanding the corona helps scientists to understand the processes that take place on the Sun—and how it changes over time.

total solar eclipse
The total solar eclipse over the U.S. in August, 2017. George Frey/Getty Images