During this weekend’s total solar eclipse, the shadow of the Moon graces the Earth one last time for the year.
Saturday’s total solar eclipse literally spans the ends of the Earth.
The final eclipse for 2021 and the only total solar eclipse of the year occurs on Saturday, December 4th, as the Moon’s shadow sweeps across a remote segment of the Antarctic continent.
You almost couldn’t design a more remote eclipse. The path for totality manages to very nearly miss every possible inhabited outpost on Earth. The only research station along the path is on windswept Signy Island and Orcadas Station in the far South Atlantic.
The path of totality over Antarctica. Credit: Michael Zeiler.
Penumbral/partial phases for the eclipse run from 5:29 to 9:37 Universal Time (UT), at just over four hours overall. Totality starts at 7:00 UT as the 418 kilometer-wide umbra of the Moon touches down over the South Atlantic, just east of the Falkland Islands. Maximum eclipse occurs at 7:33 UT over Weddell Sea, with a duration of 1 minute and 54 seconds. The shadow then sweeps out over Antarctica, and departs the Earth over the South Pacific at 9:37 UT.
An animation of the December 4th eclipse. Credit: NASA/GSFC/A.T. Sinclair.
Ocean expeditions and charted airborne flights may intercept the eclipse. Unfortunately, Quark Expeditions seems to have canceled plans to sail to totality, forcing many eclipse chasers headed to the departure point in Buenos Aires, Argentina to turn back. The ongoing worldwide pandemic has also clipped the travel wings of many an eclipse chaser over the past two years.
Maximum totality views from around the eclipse region Saturday. Credit: Dave Dickinson/Stellarium.
Partial Views Worldwide
But do not despair: though the path of totality is indeed remote, the entire continent of Antarctica sees partial phases of the eclipse. Overall, the partial eclipse also touches the edges of three continents, including the Falkland Islands (South America), South Africa, and Tasmania (Australia). These are all very low to the horizon events transpiring at sunrise or sunset, making for a photogenic eclipse that you can capture along with foreground objects on the horizon.
Partial eclipse-rise over the Vehicle Assembly Building along the Florida Space Coast from 2013. Credit: Dave Dickinson.
Don’t forget to practice proper eye safety during