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The wonders of the galaxy compressed into a few brief minutes.

Hundreds of thousands of people came to northern Chile’s Coquimbo and Atacama regions for a powerful and unforgettable cosmic experience: the total solar eclipse. It’s here that the moon cast a shadow on a narrow 200 kilometer-wide path, little by little, turning day into night as it eclipsed the sun. Then came the crown jewel: the solar corona.

Maximiliano Miranda, an onlooker of the solar eclipse, says, “it was more than I was expecting. It was a really amazing sensation. The sighting is – I never imagined how it would be to see the eclipse.”

“I’m in shock – I am. I honestly can’t find the words to process all the things that the eclipse involves. It’s amazing,” said another eclipse onlooker, Raul Lisana.

International celebrities arrived at exclusive viewing camps by helicopter, while others camped out by the river or on the hills in this region famous for its clear skies and observatories.

Thousands of astronomers left their hotels before daylight to be in position.

“I think there’s a lot of enthusiasm for truly understanding the sun, because everything in our universe is based on stars and the sun is the one that we can know the most about,” said University of Texas Professor Taft Armandroff. “It’s moments like an eclipse that reveal the outer parts of the sun.”

From start to finish, the solar eclipse lasted two and a half hours.

Latin American Editor Lucia Newman said of the eclipse, “the sun is starting to re-emerge now, but it’s not just what we’ve been seeing – it’s what we’ve been feeling. During the eclipse, it became very windy. Animals became very frightened; they started running away, then it got very quiet. The temperature suddenly went down by ten degrees, so now it’s very, vey cold here.”

An eclipse, from the Latin word ‘ekleipsis’, which means to hide or obscure, used to be seen as a bad omen – a sign that the gods were angry. Today, a solar eclipse is cause for celebration – especially in Chile, where it won’t be repeated for another 212 years.