Western British Columbia will be the best place in Canada to view a rare annular solar eclipse set to happen Saturday, but cloudy skies could obscure the phenomenon for many viewers.
An annular solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and sun, and because it happens when the sun is at its farthest point from Earth, viewers are treated to a bright halo surrounding the black blot of the moon.
Areas of North America that will see the total eclipse and fiery ring include a path from Oregon to Texas, but a statement from the University of British Columbia says Metro Vancouver residents will be able to see nearly 75 per cent of the eclipse beginning at 8:08 a.m. Pacific time.
The statement says the event will peak 72 minutes later when just a small sliver of the sun will be visible and the eclipse will end at about 10:38 a.m.
In part because of the potential for serious eye damage from looking directly at the sun, the University of British Columbia and Surrey-based Kwantlen Polytechnic University are holding viewing events and offering telescopes and special glasses so amateur astronomers can safely watch the eclipse.
But bad weather could complicate those plans, with Environment Canada calling for clouds and showers for much of the south coast on Saturday.
UBC will cancel its viewing party if clouds move in, but Kwantlen says its event will continue indoors with a livestream, although scientists at both universities are hoping for a break in the weather.
“A partial solar eclipse is one of nature’s great shows, and it’s free,” UBC physics and astronomy professor Douglas Scott says in the statement.
Laura Flinn, a physics instructor at Kwantlen Polytechnic, says the eclipse is an excellent way to spark a child’s interest in astronomy.
“This is an event that a large section of North America will be able to see,” Flinn says in a statement from KPU. “It’s a significant astronomical phenomenon that will give children a sense of how big the universe is.”
The last partial eclipse was visible across Metro Vancouver in August 2017, and Flinn says between two and five eclipses occur around the world each year, but only those along the path of an eclipse are able to see it.
The next complete annular eclipse over southern British Columbia won’t happen until Aug. 4, 2111, says Flinn.
Central and Eastern Canada won’t have long to wait for their peak at a solar eclipse.
The next one will happen on April 8, 2024, and will be viewable over parts of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.