On April 30, skywatchers gathered to watch the sun set over Chile’s Atacama Desert and witness a much rarer phenomenon.
Before the sun passed below the horizon, the moon intercepted Earth’s view, temporarily blocking off a small part of the solar circle during the first partial solar eclipse of 2022. This phenomenon is exposed in a fascinating collage, published by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) on 9 May. the image combines a series of evening photographs of the solar eclipse to produce a record of the moon’s path past the waning sun.
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes in front of the sun as seen from Earth. Eclipses can be total or partial; While total eclipses involve the moon temporarily blocking the entire disk of the sun, during the April eclipse the moon only covered a fraction of the sun, making it look like a “bite” of the sun had disappeared.
Related: The 1st solar eclipse of 2022 is stunning in these satellite views
The most dramatic sight of the April eclipse took place off the southern tip of South America, where the moon blocked 64% of the solar disk, according to NASA.
The 21 snaps that make up the newly released collage were captured in a 54-minute window. Around the middle of this period, the outline of the moon emerges and begins to obscure the last light of day.
The desert landscape, an area called Valle de la Luna (meaning Valley of the Moon in Spanish), combined with the ashy, low-light skies create an otherworldly setting. The natural dusty effect surrounding the sun is the result of the December 2021 eruption of the Hunga Tonga volcano in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The event kicked up ash and other material, some of which remains trapped in Earth’s atmosphere.
According to the ESO statement, many skywatchers who captured the strange sunset did not realize what lay ahead.
The eclipse could be seen from Antarctica, the southernmost regions of South America, and from the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. However, many of those living out of sight watched the event live online from around the world.
The next solar eclipse of 2022 will be the last of the year. On October 25, another partial eclipse will occur, which will be visible from Europe, western Asia, and northeast Africa.
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