OKANAGAN – If you have to be in Canada for the solar eclipse next week, you want to be in the Okanagan.
For approximately three hours on Monday, Aug. 21 the moon will partially block out the sun.
For those lucky enough to be in a narrow 100 km-wide band running between Salem, Oregon and Charleston, South Carolina, there will be a total solar eclipse. Everyone else, including those watching from the Okanagan, will get only partial coverage.
Ken Tapping of the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in Penticton says because the Okanagan lies along the track of totality, viewers here can expect up to 90 per cent coverage.
“We’ve got it best in the country,” he says. “The track of totality is close to the border on our side of the country. We’re well located. “
Tapping says the last solar eclipse visible from the Okanagan was in 1979.
“The next one that will hit Canada is in 2024 but that will be along the east coast,” he says. “This is our turn.”
The moon will begin to block the sun in the Okanagan at 9:12 a.m., reach maximum coverage just before 10:30 a.m. and disappear again shortly before noon.
Viewing parties are planned across the Okanagan, including the Kelowna Curling Club where the Okanagan Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada is hosting a viewing party from 9 a.m. until noon.
The Astronomical Society is also inviting the public to join them at Okanagan College in Penticton, where solar telescopes and glasses will be available. An eclipse viewing event is also planned for Desert Park, outside Osoyoos.
The Okanagan Science Centre in Vernon is holding their own viewing party in their parking lot Monday morning. They too will have eclipse glasses, solar binoculars, a telescope with a solar filter as well as pinhole eclipse projectors.
Tapping warns that looking at the sun for even a few seconds can do permanent damage and recommends building a pinhole projector of your own.
“The brain has protective measures to stop our eyes from staring at sun, but that 'software' is easy to overcome,” he says.
He also says the sun and moon are not the only things to pay attention to during an eclipse.
“Look around you. Experience the whole thing,” he says. “The birds go quiet. It is amazing.”
American Astronomical Society list of reputable eclipse glasses sellers and manufacturers.
For more safety tips, visit NASA's dedicated solar eclipse safety website.
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