Exciting Experiments During Total Solar Eclipse at La Silla

10 June 2019

On 2 July 2019, a total solar eclipse will be visible from ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. To celebrate this rare astronomical event, La Silla will open its doors to 1000 visitors. The observatory’s regular inhabitants will also remain on site to take astronomical observations and these groups of astronomers will take advantage of La Silla’s excellent location and existing equipment in novel ways, seizing the rare opportunity represented by the eclipse.

ESO has accepted seven proposals for astronomical observations for either scientific or outreach purposes during the eclipse. Some of the groups are using pre-existing telescopes at La Silla, including the NTT, ExTrA, TAROT and REM, and others will construct temporary setups, benefitting from La Silla’s infrastructure and resources.

There is a long history of using eclipses for scientific observations, including early research into the Sun’s atmosphere and the famous confirmation of General Relativity in 1919 by Eddington. However, it’s very rare to have a total eclipse pass over an existing observatory with large telescopes — in fact, in the last fifty years there have only been two such opportunities: in 1961 at L’Observatoire de Haute-Provence in France and in 1991 at Mauna Kea in Hawaii.

During this eclipse scientists will observe a variety of phenomena, ranging from classic eclipse science, such as observing the solar atmosphere and testing General Relativity, to more unusual proposals, such as a collaboration with ESA to observe Mercury’s exosphere in preparation for the BepiColombo mission.

Group Name Partner Institution(s) Primary Goal
CesaR ESA/ESAC Scientific observations of the solar atmosphere and the Earth’s ionosphere, as well as general observations for outreach and education.
ExTrA IPAG Test the ExTrA telescope on a very unusual type of transit.
OPC NTT Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris–CNRS, Sorbonne Universities and Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale/Université Paris-Sud Spectrographic measurements with the NTT of the solar corona as well as fast imaging from a small telescope of the corona. The NTT observations will improve on those done in 1991 at Mauna Kea in Hawaii.
PACA_SolPol19 Space Science Institute Measurement of linear polarization of solar K-corona and eclipse outreach activities.
REM INAF Imaging of the eclipse with REM in various wavelengths and situations, which will be used to raise awareness of Italian telescopes.
TAROT IRAP A repeat of the Eddington Experiment, which tested predictions of General Relativity in 1919, will be attempted with TAROT.


Lars Lindberg Christensen
ESO Head of Outreach Initiatives
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6761
Cell: +49 173 38 72 621

About the Announcement



The total solar eclipse of 21 August 2017
The total solar eclipse of 21 August 2017