News / Edmonton

What to expect when watching the eclipse from Edmonton: 5 questions for an expert

Dr. Aaquist talks about how to watch next week's eclipse, what it will look like, and how to do so safely

Orla Aaquist shows off a pair of specialty mylar glasses, used to look at the sun.

Kevin Tuong/for metro / Edmonton Freelance

Orla Aaquist shows off a pair of specialty mylar glasses, used to look at the sun.

On Aug. 21 a total solar eclipse — meaning the moon will block out the sun — will be visible across a strip of North America.

Sadly, Edmonton is too far north to be included in the area that will be plunged into total darkness, but the astronomical event will still be visible from here. Daylight will dim slightly for about two hours, from 10:24 a.m. to 12:48 p.m.

Metro spoke with MacEwan University astronomy professor Orla Aaquist on what to expect and the best places to see it.

What kind of eyewear should people be wearing to view the eclipse?

Never look at the sun with sunglasses. You have to wear special eye protection, like a #14 Welder’s lens. We have here at MacEwan some solar viewing glasses, or if it’s a telescope you have to have a sun filter on the telescope.

What will the eclipse look like from Edmonton?

The sun basically looks like a big round ball in the sky that’s yellow, depending on the filter you’re using. What it’ll look like under the eclipse is that a small bite or a spherical section will be removed from the sun, and it’ll grow bigger and bigger with time … the sun will look red with a bite taken out of it. It will start at about 10:24 a.m., and as the moon passes in front of the sun, part of the sun will be obscured and it’ll look black. With a solar filter, the sky will look dark. It’ll look like a crescent moon, but with no craters. About 75 per cent of the sun will be covered by the moon.

Where in the city would be the best places to view the eclipse?

People can come down to MacEwan. We’ll have a white light solar telescope, and we’ll have a special hydrogen alpha filter telescope and we’ll have some eclipse lenses ... in front of the clock tower.

When will it occur?

I’ll set up around 10 (a.m.), 10:45 a.m. to be ready for the first encounter. We’ll be there until about 12:30 p.m., when it ends.

Why are eclipses so rare?

They’re actually not. They’re just rare in any particular location. What we’re standing in when we see a solar eclipse, we’re seeing the moon’s shadow, and the moon’s shadow is small. Actually a solar eclipse happens somewhere in the world about twice a year. Only the total solar eclipses in very populated areas are advertised.

MacEwan University astronomy professor Orla Aaquist.

Kevin Tuong/For Metro

MacEwan University astronomy professor Orla Aaquist.

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