Canada is gearing up for a celestial spectacle this Saturday when the moon will cast a shadow, partially obscuring the sun. Depending on your location in the country, the extent of this partial eclipse will vary. This event is a result of an annular eclipse, where the moon does not completely cover the sun, leaving a spectacular “ring of fire” visible. Unfortunately, Canadians won’t get the full “ring of fire” experience this time, but they will be treated to a significant partial eclipse.
In comparison, total solar eclipses, which happen when the moon covers the sun completely, are due to the sun’s diameter being 400 times larger than that of the moon. Though because of the sun’s position – 400 times farther away – and the moon’s elliptical and slightly inclined orbit, a total eclipse is not a monthly occurrence.
“Annular eclipses are rarer,” notes Paul Delaney, professor emeritus at York University’s department of physics and astronomy. “The moon needs to be further from the Earth than usual and be in the correct alignment with the sun for the annular eclipse to arise. This combination occurs on average once every two to three years.”
Optimal Viewing Areas and How to Safely Watch
If you’re looking to get the best view of this celestial event, head west. The greatest spectacle will be in southern B.C., where around 75% of the sun will be obscured in areas like Victoria and Vancouver.
The University of British Columbia is capitalizing on this rare event by hosting a viewing party between 8 a.m. and 10:40 a.m. local time on Saturday.
For tech-savvy enthusiasts, the iPhone app “Totality from Big Kid Science” provides an interactive guide to the eclipse’s path. Users can select their location to preview what the eclipse will look like from their vantage point. The app will also be useful for next year’s total solar eclipse on April 8, which promises visibility across parts of eastern Canada.
But viewers be warned: “You must always observe the sun with caution and be sure the method you use is safe,” advises Delaney. He recommends the “projected image” method, using a telescope to project an image of the sun onto a paper. For those wanting a direct view, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada offers specialized eclipse glasses. Number 14 welder’s glasses are another safe option.
Alternative Viewing Options
For those without protective eyewear or in areas with overcast conditions, there are online alternatives. NASA will broadcast the eclipse from 11:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET on its official YouTube channel. Additionally, the Virtual Telescope Project will offer live coverage starting at 12:30 p.m. ET, showcasing views from Panama, Arizona, and Florida.
“However you choose to observe the event, it is worth spending the time around maximum obscuration to witness one of nature’s very special displays,” encourages Delaney.