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August’s Solar Eclipse, Part 1

As many people have heard, there is a solar eclipse occurring on Monday, August 21st, 2017. On that day, the moon will pass in front of the sun from our point of view here on earth, slowly covering it and then uncovering it over the course of a few hours. Where you are on the planet will determine what you will see, but no matter where you are, this is a great event to watch.

If you happen to be in the right place on that day,  you will see a total solar eclipse - one of the truly amazing spectacles of nature. Unfortunately for Manitobans, "the right place" this time around is a narrow path that crosses the central United States from Oregon to South Carolina - the closest part of the path is a good 12-hour drive to the south. However, Manitobans will still see a sun that is nearly three-quarters covered by the moon - the best eclipse we've had here in nearly 40 years. Here's how you can watch safely, and what you can see.

Eye Safety

WARNING: It is never safe to look at the sun directly with unprotected eyes! This is not just true during an eclipse, but any time. (However, most people don't bother looking at the Sun except during an eclipse, so the warning is often associated with eclipses in the public's imagination.)

To make sure we are providing accurate information, the Museum went to the experts. Your optometrist are the gatekeepers when it comes to eye health, so we contacted Dr. Laureen Goodridge, President of the Manitoba Association of Optometrists (MAO), who provided the following information on eye safety and the eclipse:

  • It is never safe to look at the sun without protective eyewear
  • Never look directly at the sun or partially eclipsed sun without protective eclipse shades – Sunglasses do not protect your eyes adequately when looking directly at the sun.
  • The Manitoba Association of Optometrists encourages Manitobans to take care of their eyes, through regular eye examinations and by protecting their eyes from the sun and other dangers. For regular wear, sunglasses that provide 100% UVA and UBV protection are recommended. Ask your optometrist for recommendations.

The Museum and the Manitoba Association of Optometrists have partnered to bring in safe eclipse glasses, which are available at the Museum Shop and through your optometrist. (For more information on eye health and the eclipse, visit mb-opto.ca.)

Close-up Views

Eclipse glasses are great, but what if you have binoculars or a telescope, and want a closer view of the action? There are several ways to view the sun safely, but it is also something you want to be very careful with. Even a small telescope can focus enough light at its eyepiece to instantly blind you and set fire to flammables. (Think about Robinson Crusoe using a magnifying glass to star a fire using the sun's light... same thing.)

There is no way to safely filter a telescope at the eyepiece end - any filter that is placed where the light is already focused to a point will crack or melt and blind you. You can buy solar filters that fit over the front opening of your telescope, which do the same thing as eclipse glasses: they reduce the intensity of light to safe levels. However, these filters cost upwards of a hundred dollars, and it's already becoming hard to order them since we are so close to the eclipse. If you're just starting to plan your eclipse-watching, you have a few other options.

You can use your telescope to project an image of the sun onto a nearby wall or piece of cardboard. This is completely safe, and also allows a whole group of people to see the sun's image at once. You can do it with binoculars or a telescope by following the instructions here.

You can also come by the Planetarium on Eclipse Day. If it's clear, we will have safely-filtered telescopes set up around the Planetarium dome to view the eclipse. We'll also have a live video feed from the path of totality, where several of the Planetarium staff will witness the event and provide live commentary.

 When and Where to Look

Below are the various times of the eclipse for selected locations around Manitoba and Nunavut. For other locations, visit Heavens-above.com and select your location, and then click on "Solar Eclipses" on the front page.

Location               Eclipse Start                        Maximum Eclipse                             Eclipse End

Winnipeg             11:40 am                              12:57 pm (71%)                                 2:15 pm

Brandon               11:36 am                              12:53 pm (73%)                                 2:11 pm

Dauphin               11:37 am                              12:52 pm (69%)                                 2:10 pm

Thompson            11:44 am                              12:53 pm (53%)                                 2:05 pm

Churchill              11:53 am                              12:58 (43%)                                        2:04 pm

 

Eclipse programming is supported in part by

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Scott Young

Manager of Science Communications and Visitor Experiences

"Scott oversees Science Gallery exhibits and Planetarium shows, and collaborates on content development for Museum Galleries exhibits. He has been an informal science educator for twenty years, working in the planetarium and science centre field both at The Manitoba Museum and also at the Alive G. Wallace Planetarium in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Scott is an active amateur astronomer and a past-President of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada."