Complete guide to stargazing in Chile’s ‘eclipse valley’

A stargazing mecca awaits eclipse-chasers in this low humidity wonderland

A total solar eclipse will occur in Chile’s Elqui Valley on July 2, 2019. So let’s go stargazing!

There’s a ‘dark secret’ about eclipse-chasing and stargazing that you should know. Moonlight can ruin an otherwise well-planned trip to dark sky destinations, but you don’t ever have to worry about that when scouting for locations to watch any kind of solar eclipse. Why not? It’s the best time possible for stargazing by its mechanical definition; it’s only when a New Moon crosses the ecliptic that a solar eclipse can occur, so you can be assured of dark skies for a week or so before and after the celestial spectacle.

And even if you’re not into stargazing and astronomy, it’s worth going to this region just for the wine.”

Get high up into the Elqui Valley and the stars don’t twinkle, they glow. This is a haven for stargazers. Plus you can easily find a local observatory that holds public stargazing, and observing sessions through telescopes, or a resort or guesthouse that has a telescope available for guests. Such are the wonders of the southern night sky that places like these are more common than you might think – especially in Chile.

Travel to Chile for a Total Solar Eclipse with!

There are few better places in the world than the Elqui Valley for astronomy; its clear skies and low humidity make it spot-on for stargazing. “The night skies here are incredibly clear here, so as soon as you get out of the small villages the skies are amazing, and there are a lot of observatories you can visit and even stay at,” says Dan Clarke at RealWorld Holidays. “And even if you’re not into stargazing and astronomy, it’s worth going to this region just for the wine.” That’s two great reasons to visit in July 2019.

Before you start drinking, it’s very tempting to visit a professional observatory; all host regular observing sessions and the chance to look at some of the gems of the Southern Hemisphere night sky using telescopes. It’s worth finding out if any of them will be staging special events for the Total Solar Eclipse – inevitably, they will be, though most are very small, so booking ahead will likely be essential.

1 – Observatório Cancana, Cochiguáz (Totality)

Located in the top of Cerro Cancana near Cochiguáz, this observatory holds two-hour tours each night with observation (at 9:30pm and 11:30pm in summer, 30 minutes earlier in winter).

When is Totality at Cochiguáz?
July 2, 2019 at 16:38pm (2 minutes 21 seconds)

2 – Observatorio Cerro Mayu, Talca (Totality)

Located 27km from La Serena in the Quebrada de Talca, this observatory holds talks (in Spanish only) from 21:00. Prior reservations only. Cash only.

When is Totality at Observatorio Cerro Mayu, Talca?
July 2, 2019 at 16:38pm (2 minutes 10 seconds)

3 – Observatorio Cruz del Sur, Combarbalá (98% partial eclipse)

Located in Combarbalá, this place has four east and west-facing domes arranged as the Cruz del Sur – Southern Cross –  constellation that gives this observatory its name. It has a fleet of 16-inch Meade LX200-R Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes. No Totality here, and it’s a short drive south of Elqui Valley proper, but worth a visit while you’re in the area.

4 – Observatorio Astronomico Collowara (Totality)

Located in the mining town of Andacollo this new observatory has a 14-inch Schmidt-Cassigrain telescope in its main observation dome, with two 10-inch Newtonian automatic telescopes and a 16-inch Dobsonian telescope. Also has a projection room for up to 54 people, and three cross-shaped direct observation terraces facing east, from where visitors can see the great observatories of Tololo and Gemini at the CTIO.

When is Totality at Andacollo?
July 2, 2019 at 16:38pm (1 minute 21 seconds)

5 – Observatorio del Pangue, Vicuña (Totality)

Located 17km south from Vicuña, this observatory has some enormous telescopes – the highlight being a colossal 28-inch Newtonian reflector. Its nightly Tour Astro, picking-up in Vicuña, is for a minimum of five people, and a maximum of 10, with two astronomers. Talks are in Spanish, English and French.

When is Totality at Observatorio del Pangue?
July 2, 2019 at 16:38pm (2 minutes 12 seconds)

6 – Observatorio Mamalluca, Vicuña (Totality)

Located 9km from Vicuña in the Elqui Valley, Mamalluca Observatory is sponsored by the Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in Cerro Tololo. It has a 12-inch telescope donated by AURA, and CCD detectors for electronic photography. Tours are conducted daily. It also includes IntiRuna Observatory, the largest public solar observatory in the world … trained on Totality on July 2, 2019 per chance?

When is Totality at Vicuña?
July 2, 2019 at 16:38pm (2 minutes 23 seconds)

Image credit: Credit: Observatorio Mamalluca – The most famous public observatory is Observatorio Mamalluca near Vicuña