A Total Solar Eclipse Is Coming Tomorrow, And It Will Be a Striking Amber Colour

It's been nearly two years since the "Great American Eclipse". Millions crammed into a 70-mile (110-kilometer) wide path of totality stretching from coast to coast, where the Moon blotted out the Sun to usher in a spontaneous nightfall. It was a planetary cavalcade unlike anything most had seen.

This Tuesday, Earth will again find itself the backdrop of the Moon's shadow, but this time, basking in the lunar umbra won't be so easy. Though the path of totality spans 6,000 miles (9,600 kilometres), most of it is over the remote South Pacific.

Only a narrow zone in Chile and Argentina will witness totality before sunset - weather permitting.

This time around will be a higher-stakes but higher-reward event. It's winter in the Southern Hemisphere, and Mother Nature's caprice manifests itself in the chaotic conditions of the Andes Mountains.

La Serena - a coastal city of 200,000 about 250 miles (400 kilometres) north of Santiago and the first community to be plunged into darkness - is frequently buried beneath a deck of marine stratus clouds.

Making matters more complicated is the low elevation of the Sun. Since totality strikes at 4:38 pm local time - just one hour, 18 minutes before sunset - the solar disk will hover a mere 13 degrees above the northwest horizon as the Moon intercepts its light.

That means even distant clouds could spoil the show. During the 2017 eclipse, the Sun was 60 degrees high, so the only clouds that mattered were the those directly above. The eclipse in Chile will be much trickier.

The eclipse also could boost cloud cover near the coast. As incoming light drops and temperatures fall, an "inversion" will strengthen as the ground cools faster than the air. That will speed up the production of ocean stratus clouds even more.

There is the option to go inland in hopes of escaping the pesky marine layer, but that would be no easy feat. Only one major road - Route 41, partially paved and largely dirt - snakes its way inward within the path of totality.