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Published July 8, 2010

On Sunday observers on Easter Island will see the first total solar eclipse to cross the island in 1,400 years, as the moon's shadow sweeps from north of New Zealand to South America's tip.

© 2010 National Geographic; video courtesy NASA

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Unedited Transcript

Fred Espenak, NASA Astrophysicist: “The eclipse that occurs on July 11th is a total solar eclipse, and it takes place in the South Pacific. The path of the moon shadow starts about a thousand miles north of New Zealand, sweeps across the Pacific Ocean and it ends at sunset in Tierra del Fuego in Chile and Argentina.

“Totality will last up to about five minutes and twenty seconds if you’re at the right spot. “

“One of the most unique things about this particular eclipse is that it crosses a unique and interesting archaeological site: Easter Island. On Easter Island there are these great statues that were erected a thousand, fifteen hundred years ago . There’s a lot of mystery about these statues, but in any case, this is the first total eclipse that’s hit the island in about 1,400 years.”

Holly Gilbert, NASA Astrophysicist: “So, during a solar eclipse, the moon comes between the sun and the earth, and it casts a shadow on the earth. And for those people that happen to be in that small area where the shadow is, they’re going to experience what we call a total solar eclipse. And basically, the moon exactly blocks out the solar disc, which is a good thing for those of us who study the outer atmosphere, because in blocking out the very bright solar disc, we are then able to observe the outer atmosphere, called the corona, which is must less bright, it’s about a million times less bright than the disc. So, the solar eclipse provides a rare opportunity to view the outer atmosphere , and the moon just happens to be at the exact perfect distance away from the earth that it completely blocks out just the disc of the sun.”

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