For the first time in 99 years, 14 states in the U.S will witness a total solar eclipse on August 21st. While Canada won’t get a total solar eclipse, we will still be treated to a partial one. Both countries are preparing for this huge astronomical event, with public solar eclipse parties and individuals seeking viewing opportunities. As tempting as it may be to witness this scientific wonder, scientists are warning individuals to ensure they are properly protected when observing the eclipse.
What is a Solar Eclipse?
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, blocking the sun from view on Earth. Total solar eclipses happen once every 18 months or so, but this is the first time since 1918 that a total solar eclipse has passed over the continental US.
What the eclipse looks like will depend on where you are located. If you are in one of the 14 U.S states that are in the eclipse’s path, you will see the moon fully block the sun, making it appear nighttime in the middle of the day. If you are outside that path (as we are in Burlington, ON), you will see the moon take a bite out of the sun’s disk but the sun will never fully be covered.
Watch this video to learn more.
The Dangers of Viewing the Eclipse
Looking directly at the sun is always a bad idea, but during an eclipse, it’s even more dangerous for your eyes. The intense light from the sun can literally cook the retinal tissue of your eye, causing permanent damage.
Ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun. You can, however, safely view the eclipse by purchasing solar eclipse glasses. When purchasing eclipse-viewing glasses, make sure that they meet this list of criteria outlined by NASA:
- ISO 12312-2 international standard
- Have the manufacturer’s name and address printed somewhere on the product
- Do not use if they are older than three years, or have scratched or wrinkled lenses
- Do not use homemade filters
While you may think viewing through a telescope, binoculars or a camera lens may be a safe way to view the eclipse, these objects also require a solar filter to allow for safe viewing.
When is the Eclipse?
The solar eclipse will be visible from the Burlington/Hamilton area around 1:10 p.m. as the moon begins to cross the disk of the sun.
Around 2:30 p.m., we’ll see a partial eclipse as the moon covers about
70 per cent of the sun. The entire event will end around 3:47pm.
Attend a Solar Eclipse Party
The Hamilton Amateur Astronomers - T.B. McQuesten Park, 1199 Upper Wentworth St., Hamilton, 12:30 to 4 p.m. A limited
supply of special eclipse viewers will be available.
Ontario Science Centre is collaboration with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. https://www.ontariosciencecentre.ca/Calendar/354/
How to Talk to Kids About the Solar Eclipse
Talking to your kids about the solar eclipse is a great opportunity for a STEM lesson. Here are a few great videos for kids that explain the solar eclipse: