Advertisement

Solar eclipse 2024 in Canada: Everything to know for April 8 — timing, path of totality, safety warnings and more

We brought your top eclipse questions to an expert, and we have answers

For the latest info from across Canada for the 2024 total solar eclipse, you can keep up with Yahoo Canada's live blog. 

Canadians are gearing up for a 'once-in-a-generation' total solar eclipse that will plunge a swath of the country into several minutes of darkness on Monday, April 8.

As hordes of people are set to descend on regions lined up in the path of totality, many who for the first time will experience a total solar eclipse are turning to social media seeking answers on how to make the most of this once-in-a-generation event.

Yahoo News Canada spoke with Greg Lisk of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada to bring you everything you need to know from how a solar eclipse occurs, where to best view it and how to keep yourself safe.

🌗 What is a solar eclipse?

A solar eclipse happens when, at just the right moment, the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, according to NASA.

There are several types of solar eclipses: partial, annular and total. What makes the 2024 eclipse significant is this celestial event is a total solar eclipse, meaning that the moon, for those in the path of totality will completely block all sunlight for several minutes.

Many of you have been wondering, "how do we know so far in advance there is going to be an eclipse on a set day?"

"We have known for decades there will be a solar eclipse in the region," explains Lisk. "We have calculated the moon's orbit so precisely that we know exactly at what moment the moon will block the sun's light from reaching earth."

🕗 What time will the solar eclipse happen across Canada?

"The shadow of the eclipse will be moving at 2,000 miles an hour by the time it reaches Canada," Lisk said.

Lisk explains that the moon will begin transiting in front of the sun approximately an hour before totality, and will end an hour after totality.

In Canada, the partial eclipse will begin around 2:07 p.m. EDT when it enters Canada's border in south eastern Ontario, and those located on the north east Canadian portion of the path can expect the sun's light to begin dimming at approximately 4 p.m. EDT.

🇨🇦 Where will the 2024 solar eclipse be visible in Canada?

Canadian provinces in the path of totality include:

Ontario

Quebec

Prince Edward Island

New Brunswick

Newfoundland

READ MORE: Solar eclipse 2024 events: Best cities in Canada to experience 'astronomical' solar eclipse on April 8

Key cities that will experience totality are Niagara Falls, Ont., Kingston, Ont., Montreal, Que., Fredericton, N.B., Summerside, P.E.I., and Gander, Nfld.

In the chart below, you will see listed all the major Canadian eclipse hotspots with the time of onset and duration posted beside.

Total solar eclipse locations and duration
Total solar eclipse locations and duration

Those living outside the eclipse's path will witness a small portion of the moon blocking the sun, Lisk explains.

"Out in British Columbia, you will get a 10 per cent shadow in front of the sun, so unless you look at the sun with a filter, you wouldn't even know an eclipse is happening," Lisk said.

Partial solar eclipse times
Partial solar eclipse times

🌎 What is the path of totality?

The path of totality is the centre line that the moon's shadow takes across the earth, Lisk explains.

Solar eclipse in Eastern Canada. (Government of Canada)
Solar eclipse in Eastern Canada. (Government of Canada)

"It is about 100 miles in diameter," Lisk says. "The size of the shadow as it rests on the earth depends on the angle that it is hitting the earth. As it moves from Mexico/Texas, it hits the earth full-on, but as it moves up through Canada, the shadow noticeably stretches over the curve of the earth."

☀️🌗 🌑 What are the stages of a solar eclipse?

Stage 1: Partial phase

This is where you will begin seeing the moon appear in front of the sun, Lisk explains. The duration of this stage lasts approximately an hour as more and more of the sun is covered by the moon.

Lisk says that by the time 90% of the sun is covered, one observable effect is that shadows all around will become very sharp as the source of sunlight comes from a very narrow spot.

Stage 2: Diamond ring effect

When the moon moves to block the sun nearly completely, the sky will darken to a point you will observe a glow emitting from around the moon, which Lisk explains is the sun's corona.

"The last piece of sun left uncovered makes this sharp, brilliant light that will last several seconds and it will appear somewhat like a diamond ring," Lisk says. "This is when you know totality is about to occur."

Total eclipse of the Sun. The moon covers the sun in a solar eclipse.
Total eclipse of the Sun. The moon covers the sun in a solar eclipse.

Stage 3: Baily's Beads

When the diamond ring fades, but before the sun completely disappears, an effect known as Baily's Beads takes place.

"The edge of the moon is not a perfectly smooth ball, there are mountains and craters on the moon, so little pieces of sunlight will filter through those peaks and valleys, and observable to viewers," Lisk said.

Stage 4: Totality

When the last light vanishes, the sky will completely darken, Lisk explains.

"You will see the stars, planets and the glow of the sun's corona around the moon, which this year should be spectacular, as we are nearing a solar maximum of this solar cycle," Lisk said. Looking to the lower right of the eclipse, the planet Venus will appear brightly and further below, Mars and Saturn will appear.

The length of totality can range anywhere from just a few seconds to the upper range of three minutes, depending on where the viewer is located along the path of totality, Lisk says.

🚨Why are regions declaring state of emergencies ahead of the eclipse?

A state of emergency is a formal declaration that allows public officials to free up funds, mobilize assistance, and temporarily harness powers they otherwise wouldn’t have on a normal day.

READ MORE: What is a state of emergency? How these orders help in a crisis

Niagara Falls expects one million visitors ahead of the 2024 eclipse—a tremendous strain on local resources amid a surge that would temporarily balloon the region’s population from about 100,000 residents to 1.1 million people on a single afternoon.

Specific legislation governs when these declarations may be made, how long they can last, and exactly what powers and funds may be used for the duration of the emergency. There's often a set time limit—usually one to two weeks—before an order expires if it's not renewed.

The measure, it says, "strengthens the tools the region has at its disposal to safeguard the health and safety of residents and visitors and protect our critical infrastructure in any scenario that might arise."

🕰️ How often are solar eclipses?

On average, 2.38 solar eclipses of one kind or another occur each year. There must be at least two per year, but there can’t be more than five, according to astronomy.com.

The last time Canadians experienced a solar eclipse was during the Great American Total Solar Eclipse of 2017, where regions across the nation were treated to a partial solar eclipse.

The next time Canadians can expect to be treated to a total solar eclipse will be in 2044, when a total solar eclipse is set to carve a path of darkness through western Canada.

🦅 What are effects on nature that will be observed during totality?

As totality nears and for the duration, there are several key effects that will appear in the natural world.

"You will see birds going to roost, bats may begin circling and night insects will begin chirping," Lisk said.

READ MORE: No, birds won't fall out of the sky on April 8

As the shadows of the eclipse move through the path of totality, another key marker that an eclipse is taking place is a major drop in temperature. "When it gets down to the last 10 per cent of the sun being covered, the temperature may drop up to 10-15 degrees," Lisk said.

😎 How can I keep myself safe during a solar eclipse?

"On a normal day, we normally don't have the temptation to stare at the sun, so this is normally not a concern," Lisk said.

READ MORE: The 2024 total solar eclipse is coming: Here are all the health risks and warnings to be wary of

Eclipse glasses are an absolute essential if you will be looking up at the sky as the entire duration of the eclipse will last several hours, warns Lisk.

A dog is given protective glasses by its owner prior to the solar eclipse in Regent's Park in London, Friday, March 20, 2015. Unfortunately due to heavy cloud cover, the eclipse was not visible in London. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A dog is given protective glasses by its owner prior to the solar eclipse in Regent's Park in London, Friday, March 20, 2015. Unfortunately due to heavy cloud cover, the eclipse was not visible in London. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

"You will need to have the glasses on your face for all the partial phase — before totality and after — as the sun's rays will be damaging," Lisk said. "When it gets down to the tiny sliver about to disappear, you can take off your glasses."

Lisk also warns to check your eclipse glasses as scammers are taking advantage of the eclipse and selling counterfeit glasses. Lisk recommends buying them from a legitimate distributor, and ensure that they are ISO-certified.

READ MORE: Fake solar eclipse glasses are being sold. Here's what you need to look out for — and where to buy legit ones

"You can test that they are safe by holding them up to a very bright light source like your smartphone LED flashlight. If you hold the glasses right over the light, you should just make out the actual square of the LED and no more," Lisk said.

Lisk also offers up a warning to anyone who may be on the roads.

"I recommend if you can get off the road during totality, do it," Lisk said. "Be aware of your surroundings if you are near a street as there is a high likelihood of distracted drivers who may be looking up while the eclipse is taking place."

☁️ What happens if it is cloudy on April 8?

While clear skies may be more of a hope than a reality on April 8 when taking into consideration past meteorological trends, here is what you will observe during the eclipse if skies are overcast.

If there is thin cloud cover on April 8, you will still be able to make out the stages of the eclipse, Lisk explains.

"If it is raining, the temperatures will drop and it will get as dark as night." Lisk said.

Lisk's first tip on eclipse photography is simple. Don't.

"Don't mess around with camera equipment. With all the changing lighting conditions, you will be fiddling around with settings and miss most of the actual eclipse," said Lisk. "Just experience it."

One special warning Lisk is offering when using devices to point at the sun — "Do not use your eclipse glasses when looking through a lens of binoculars, video camera or camera." The sunlight will focus onto the glasses and burn a hole right through them. Any device you are using during the eclipse should be covered with a solar filter on the front lens of that device.

If you are planning on filming the eclipse, Lisk has this simple piece of advice — get away from people.

"People will be losing their minds when totality occurs and screaming and hollering," Lisk said. "I've watched a lot of videos of eclipses and all you can hear is someone screaming their head off."

Yahoo News Canada will be providing live coverage of the 2024 solar eclipse on April 8.