“Once in a lifetime” solar eclipse coming to Ontario in April


A once-in-a-century total solar eclipse will turn day into night for several minutes in some parts of southern Ontario on Monday, April 8. 

A partial view of the eclipse is expected to be in its maximum phase of totality at 3:18 p.m. in Waterloo region, lasting for two to three minutes. It will begin the first contact phase at about 2:03 p.m., and wrap up final phases at around 4:30 p.m. 

“Partial eclipses happen every year and total eclipses about every year and a half. But rarely does the shadow path of a total eclipse cross so close to your locality as we are seeing this year,” explained Brian McNamara, professor and chair at the UW physics and astronomy department.

“For many this will be a once in a lifetime opportunity unless they are prepared to travel to faraway places to experience a total solar eclipse.”

The event marks the first total solar eclipse near Waterloo region since 1925, and the last one until 2144. This celestial event happens when the moon passes between the sun and the Earth, aligning perfectly and completely blocking sunlight along a relatively narrow path on the Earth’s surface. 

That path is estimated to be 115 km wide and 16,000 km long. It will pass through Hamilton, Niagara, Windsor, Leamington, Cornwall, Kingston, Prince Edward County, along with parts of Canada, the U.S., and Mexico. For those outside of the path of totality in nearby areas, a partial solar eclipse will be visible. 

Local organizations will be participating in solar eclipse viewing events in areas directly in the path of totality. The UW science faculty, including McNamara, will participate in a solar eclipse viewing at Hare Wine Co. in Niagara. The Kitchener-Waterloo Royal Astronomical Society of Canada will also be travelling to the No. 6 RCAF Dunnville Museum in Dunnville. 

For those looking to view the eclipse live from home, an online stream, Chasing the Shadow from Niagara to Newfoundland, will take place from 2-4 p.m., hosted by the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. 

Looking at the sun directly without proper protection can cause permanent eye damage. To view the eclipse safely, one must look through safe solar viewing glasses (“eclipse glasses”) or a safe handheld solar viewer at all times. Regular sunglasses, no matter how dark, are not safe when viewing the sun. 

Eclipse glasses can be purchased through the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, KW Telescope, or Amazon.