Total Solar Eclipse 2024
A once-in-a-lifetime event for Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces!
For the first time in decades, Eastern and Atlantic Canada will find themselves cast beneath the shadow of the Moon on April 8, 2024. As the Moon passes directly between the Earth and the Sun, it will create a total solar eclipse, completely blocking the Sun from view for a few spectacular minutes. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime event for Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces, as the next total solar eclipse over eastern Canada will be in 2079, and 2106 after that!
You can now register for our Eclipse 101 and 201 educational training, which will cover all eclipse safety and basics (101) and how to bring eclipse science activities into your classroom (201)! These training events will be repeated through February and March.
What is a Total Solar Eclipse?
A solar eclipse happens when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, casting its shadow on the Earth. From our perspective, this will look like the Moon is blocking out the Sun in the sky, either completely or partially, depending on the type of eclipse and where it is being observed from. Eclipses only happen occasionally since the Moon does not orbit in the exact same plane as the Earth and the Sun. Twice a year, when all three are aligned, eclipses have the possibility of occurring worldwide.
There are several types of eclipses, but the upcoming eclipse on April 8, 2024 is a total solar eclipse, meaning that at its maximum, the Moon will completely block out the Sun. Totality, when the Sun is entirely covered by the Moon at the eclipse maximum, will follow a path across North America, sweeping over several populous Canadian cities including Kingston in Ontario, Sherbrooke in Quebec, Fredericton in New Brunswick, Summerside in Prince Edward Island, and Grand Falls - Windsor in Newfoundland.
Where will you be observing the eclipse from?
Will you be in the path of totality?
What will I see on April 8, 2024?
What you see will depend on where you are! The total eclipse will be visible from a band called the path of totality. Outside this path, people will see a partial eclipse, where the Moon will not cover the Sun completely. The closer you are to the path of totality, the more of the Sun will be covered by the Moon.
From beginning to end, the eclipse will be visible for about 2 hours. You can watch the whole thing, but the eclipse maximum is the best part. At eclipse maximum, the sky will darken as the Moon blocks out the Sun’s light. Depending on where you are viewing the eclipse, what happens at the maximum will vary.
In the path of totality
Viewing through eclipse glasses, the Sun will shrink to a sliver and then vanish. Then the Moon will completely block out the light from the Sun. During totality —and only during totality— it is safe to remove your eclipse glasses.
You'll see a dark circle in the sky (the Moon), with streaks of light coming from it. Those streaks are the Sun’s corona: the faint outer layer of its atmosphere. This sight is unique to total solar eclipses! Totality will only last a few minutes, after which you will need to put on your eclipse glasses again to view the rest. The eclipse will then progress back into partial phases until it's conclusion.
Outside the path of totality
If you are not viewing the eclipse in the path of totality, your eclipse maximum will be a partial eclipse. The sky will darken as the Moon blocks out most of the light from the Sun, but there will always be a sliver of the Sun still visible.
Viewing this maximum partial phase, the Sun will be a thin crescent that shrinks in size as maximum approaches and grows in size again after. Eclipse glasses are required for viewing all phases of the eclipse outside the path of totality, including the maximum.
Depending on your location, the eclipse will start, reach maximum, and end at different times. Check the table for your viewing location:
How can I prepare for the eclipse with my students or group?
As the eclipse approaches, you may be wondering what you can do to prepare yourself and your peers. The first thing you will want to do is get eclipse glasses. These glasses enable you to safely observe all stages of the eclipse, and you will want to get them soon! You can read more about eclipse glasses and safety precautions for the eclipse in the next section. We are offering regular training sessions, too! You can register for our Eclipse 101 or 201 sessions here.
Another priority in preparation for the eclipse is to educate yourself on eclipses, eye safety, and activities you can do to enjoy the eclipse with your peers. Discover the Universe and other organizations have many relevant and important documents, workshops, and training leading up to the big day.
Workshops and Training
How can we observe the eclipse safely?
Looking at the Sun without proper eye protection, including during an eclipse, can severely hurt your eyesight and even damage it permanently. It is always dangerous to observe the Sun, but we naturally tend not to look at it on any sunny day. During an eclipse however, we want to look at the Sun and we need to do it safely. The easiest way to do it is to have ISO certified eclipse glasses.
Never look at the Sun directly with bare eyes.
Solar filters, like those in eclipse glasses and viewers, are designed to protect the eyes from the intense brightness of the Sun, blocking out most (99.997%) of the sunlight. Made from specialized materials, they block out harmful UV and IR radiation from the Sun too, only allowing a safe amount of visible light to pass through. These filters allow safe observation of the Sun. The ISO 12312-2 Standard for Solar Viewers is a policy on solar viewers and glasses that ensures the safety of the user. This specification sets requirements on specific properties of safe solar viewers, including how much visible light, UV radiation, and IR radiation reach our retinas. Only eclipse viewers and glasses that meet the ISO 12312-2 standard are guaranteed to be safe for solar viewing if they are undamaged.
During an eclipse, even though some of the sunlight is blocked by the Moon, the remaining light can still damage unprotected eyes. That is why it is important to have proper eclipse glasses or viewers so that you can safely look directly at all partial phases of the eclipse. Don’t get fooled by the fact that the Sun is mostly covered by the Moon: as long as a tiny fraction of the Sun is visible, you must wear solar filters to protect your eyes. When the eclipse is partial: wear your glasses!
The only time when it is safe to remove your eclipse glasses is during totality. During these few minutes, the Sun’s surface is completely blocked by the Moon and the corona is safe to look at directly. In fact, if you keep your glasses during totality, you will miss the best show since you won’t see anything! Make sure to put your glasses back on as soon as the Sun reappears from behind the Moon.
Indirectly viewing the eclipse
It is also possible and highly encouraged to indirectly observe the eclipse! This includes seeing how the Sun’s shape changes during partial phases using shadows. Indirect methods of observing the eclipse are pinhole projectors; these are anything that have a small hole or space that sunlight can pass through and cast an image on a more distant surface. Examples of pinhole projectors are spread fingers on crossed hands – makes a net or grate like pattern which light can pass through and cast a shadow on a nearby surface – and tree branches and leaves – makes shadows on the ground, preserving in the shadows the small spaces between the leaves and allowing light to pass through. These pinhole projectors use the small spaces between shadows to cast an image of the Sun’s shape on nearby surfaces.
Watch this solar eclipse eye safety video with Professor Ralph Chou
How can I teach about the eclipse?
You can also register for our Eclipse 101 and 201 educational training, which will cover all eclipse safety and basics (101) and how to bring eclipse science activities into your classroom (201)! These training events will be repeated through February and March.
There are many ways to introduce the eclipse to your students. It is important to start by explaining the motions of and interactions between the Earth, the Moon, and the Sun, and what is physically happening during a solar eclipse: the Moon blocks the sunlight from reaching Earth and what we see from within the shadow of the Moon is the Moon covering the Sun in the sky. Classroom activities are a great way to teach eclipses to your students.
Here are additional resources to introduce and teach eclipses in the classroom:
2024 Eclipse Ontario Education Bundle - good for all provinces!
Eclipse Quebec: Total Eclipse of the Sun - good for all provinces!