Solar Eclipse April 8, 2024

Tuesday, 19 March 2024 13:28

On April 8th, 2024, portions of south-central and eastern Canada will experience one of the wonders of nature – a total solar eclipse. A total eclipse is a special event and, as it draws nearer, will capture the interest of both enthusiasts and the public alike. This April 8th, 2024 eclipse is significant in that it will be experienced by, or near, some of the most populous areas in Canada. Such an event requires preparation by communities within the path of the eclipse to address the logistics of an influx of visitors, as well as to maximize benefits to the community in both the short and long term. Total Solar Eclipse 2024 lays out some of the considerations that communities experiencing the eclipse will need to incorporate into their eclipse planning.

What is an eclipse?

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon blocks out the sun in the sky. This phenomenon occurs because the sun and the moon appear to be almost the exact same size when viewed from Earth. The moment when the sun is completely blocked by the moon is referred to as “totality”. Although there is, on average, a total solar eclipse visible somewhere on Earth every two years, it is rarely in your own backyard. This is why this is a once-in-a-lifetime event - a total eclipse takes place every 375 to 400 years in a given location on Earth and will be happening right here in 2024.

What can you expect during a total solar eclipse?

As the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, the Moon begins to block out some of the Sun’s light, casting a shadow on the Earth. A small “bite” appears on the edge of the Sun and continues to spread across until a thin crescent of the sun is left visible. As the moon completely blocks the solar disk (also called “totality”), tiny specks of light become visible around the edge of the sun, called “Baily’s Beads” – these are the last rays of sun shining though valleys on the edge of the Moon. Totality is also the only time that the sun’s ghostly and spectacular corona (or outer atmosphere) is visible, surrounding what appears to be a black hole in the sky. As observers are plunged into the moon’s shadow, a sunset-like reddish glow can be seen in the horizon, planets and bright stars become visible during the day, birds return to their nests for the “night”, and light and shadows take on a quality unique only to total solar eclipses. Total solar eclipses are one of the marvels of the natural world and it is not unusual for people to become enamoured with “chasing” them after experiencing their first.

Solar eclipse safety

  •  Never look directly at the Sun without using protective filters that comply with the ISO 12312-2: 2015 standard. Even when almost the entire Sun is covered by the Moon, light from the remaining crescent Sun is intense enough to cause a retinal injury. Solar eclipse viewers and glasses are designed to give a safe comfortable view of the partly eclipsed Sun. Sunglasses (even multiple pairs), smoked glass and space blankets are not safe substitutes.
  • Solar eclipse viewers and glasses that comply with the ISO 12312-2: 2015 standard must have labels to that effect. The manufacturer or distributor must be able to provide proof of compliance on request.
  • You can remove solar viewers and look directly at an eclipse only during totality (when the moon is completely blocking the sun) and if you are in the path of totality. Totality only spans a few seconds to a few minutes, depending on where you are located in the path of totality. Totality on April 8, 2024, in Ontario will last up to 3.5 minutes

There will also be a virtual viewing through the Canadian Space Agency’s website for those who do not want to chance being outside. The Health Unit has links on their website to activities for kids such as making a pinhole camera (also called a pinhole projector) that can be used to safely observe an eclipse. Light is allowed through a small punched hole, which then projects the incoming light onto the opposite end of the box.

For more information about eye safety and proper viewing devices during the eclipse, visit Total Solar Eclipse 2024 - Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit. If you require medical assistance because of a risk of exposure, call Ontario811 or visit a virtual care clinic.