There’s A Total Solar Eclipse Coming In April. Here’s How To Watch It Safely

What you need to know about this “once in a lifetime” celestial event, from when exactly it will happen to how to view it safely. 
There’s A Total Solar Eclipse Coming In April. Here’s How To Watch It Safely

(Photo: istock)

A rare total solar eclipse will be visible in parts of southern Ontario, Quebec and eastern Canada on Monday, April 8, 2024. Here’s what you need to know about this “once in a lifetime” celestial event, from when exactly it will happen to how to view it safely. 

What is a solar eclipse? 

A solar eclipse is when the moon moves between the sun and the earth, blocking earth’s view of the sun. During the peak of the eclipse, viewers on earth are only able to see the shadow of the moon and a bright ring around it—the outer layer of the sun, a.k.a. its corona.

Astrophysicist Dr. Ilana MacDonald, who leads Ontario's Eclipse Task Force, explains that the perfect alignment that causes an eclipse occurs twice a year, but in different locations of the world. As the majority of the earth is covered with water and not populated by humans, viewing a solar eclipse is a rare experience for most people. The next total solar eclipse in Canada won’t happen until 2079, and will be viewable only from the Atlantic provinces. 

A photo showing phases of eclipse.(Photo: istock)

What’s the difference between a total eclipse and partial eclipse? 

You’ll view different phases of the eclipse as the moon passes between the sun and the earth. The time and duration of this solar eclipse vary depending on where you are, but it will start to unfold around 2 p.m. EST and last until 5 p.m. EST. It starts with a partial eclipse, where the moon does not cover the sun completely. The sun will appear as a crescent shape in this phase. As the eclipse progresses, the moon completely covers the bright face of the sun—marking a total eclipse.

Where can you see the solar eclipse Canada 2024?


The path of totality—or where you can see a total solar eclipse—is where the moon will completely block out the sun. During a total eclipse, when the sun is briefly blocked out for three to four minutes, you can view it without eclipse glasses. “It will only be as bright as a full moon,” explains MacDonald. For this specific eclipse, the Ontario cities of Kingston, Montréal, Niagara Falls and Hamilton—and their surrounding areas—are in the path of totality. Get a full list of Canadian cities in the path of totality, and timing, below.

locations and timetable of the solar eclipse in April 2024(Photo: Canadian Space Agency)

MacDonald, who is based in Toronto, will be travelling to see the total eclipse. “You will get this very cool experience as it will get really dark, quiet and slightly cold.” Even if you’re not in the path of totality, you will get to experience a partial eclipse. 


A very important note: You should not look at any part of the eclipse unprotected if you are not on the path of totality. Even if you are on the path of totality, the total eclipse—the only part of the eclipse you can view without eclipse glasses—will only last for around three minutes or less depending on your location.

How can you look at an eclipse safely?

To view an eclipse safely, MacDonald recommends using eclipse glasses that comply with ISO 12312-2 international standards. These glasses are made of aluminized polyester that looks shiny on the outside and dark on the inside, protecting your eyes from most sunlight. It is essential to wear eclipse glasses during the partial phases of the eclipse.

Is there a specific way to put on eclipse glasses? 


According to MacDonald, the best practice for putting on eclipse glasses is to look down and put on the glasses, then look up to the eclipse. Remember to look back down before you remove your glasses. Viewers outside the path of totality must not remove their glasses.

And be warned: Regular sunglasses will not protect your eyes from direct viewing of the sun. MacDonald explains that sunglasses block only 50 percent of the light coming from the sun, while eclipse glasses block nearly all of it. “There is not really [a] substitute for eclipse glasses,” she says. 

How should you care for your eclipse glasses?


Always inspect your eclipse glasses before you put them on to ensure there are no scratches in the lenses. “The best way to store the glasses is to put them in an envelope or keep them in a book,” says MacDonald (she keeps her glasses folded between the pages of  a notebook). This way you could use the same pair of glasses to view future eclipses. 

Where can you get eclipse glasses? 

Eclipse glasses are widely available, but it is crucial to ensure that they meet ISO standards. MacDonald recommends avoiding purchasing them from uncertified vendors. “[Saving money isn’t] worth the risk of damaging your eyes,” she says. Consult the American Astronomical Society’s safe supplier list for approved suppliers of solar viewers and filters to ensure you’re getting a quality pair that will truly protect your eyes. You can also find multi-packs of glasses that are cheaper to purchase and suitable for sharing with friends and family. 


A pair of eclipse glasses(Photo: Celestron)


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