On December 4, the Earth, moon and sun perfectly aligned to form the only total solar eclipse of the year. The moon inched in front of the glowing sun, blocking its light and casting a shadow of total darkness over Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, Laura Geggel reports for Live Science.
The whole marvel lasted about two minutes. The moon—appearing as a giant, dark sphere—slowly crept over the sun’s glaring glow. For a few moments, the moon was perfectly in front of the sun, creating a bright ring of light around the moon’s pitch-black shape, Kasha Patel reports for the Washington Post.
Only a handful of lucky onlookers, inculding tourists, research scientists and waddles of penguins, witnessed this astronomical wonder from Antarctica itself, Elizabeth Howell reports for Space.com.
Total Solar Eclipse in Antarctica ☀️🌓🌎
📷: From the Union Glacier Joint Scientific Polar Station. By @FTruebaG / @MarcaChile and
@ReneQuinan / @inach_gob
📷: From an airplane. “Eflight 2021-Sunrise” Mission by astronomy student @vanebulossa / @uchile pic.twitter.com/lRmBt62SaS
— ALMA Observatory at Home📡 (@almaobs) December 4, 2021
Others partly witnessed the solar eclipse from the southernmost regions of Argentina, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
A lucky few had an otherworldly view: seven astronauts watched the solar eclipse from a panoramic window on the International Space Station (ISS), Hannah Seo reports for Popular Science.
“Saturday morning, the Expedition 66 crew squeezed into the Cupola to check out the total solar eclipse that occurred over Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. Here the moon casts an oblong shadow on the Earth’s surface. It was an incredible sight to behold.”
– Kayla Barron pic.twitter.com/FktW8qsBIU
— NASA Astronauts (@NASA_Astronauts) December 4, 2021
Though eclipses tend to occur every 18 months or so, some parts of the world can go decades without them, and Antarctica won’t witness another solar eclipse until April 2039. This eclipse was particularly special because it occurred during the continent’s summer, when the sun never sets and the whole region is illuminated 24 hours a day, Popular Science reports.
According to a NASA timetable, the next total solar eclipse will be visible in North and Central America in April 2024. Until then, however, three other types of solar eclipses will occur: partial eclipses in April and October 2022, in which the moon won’t completely block the sun; an annular eclipse in October 2023, where the moon won’t fully cover the sun despite the moon being perfectly centered; and a hybrid in April 2023, which is a combination between a total and annular eclipse.