Prince Edward County’s Newspaper of Record
May 18, 2024
15° Cloudy

County Eclipse

April 8th may see an influx of sun-gazing visitors
<p>Johann Christian Schoeller (1782—1851), “Sonnenfnsternis, 8. Juli 1842” (water colour, paper). (Photo: Wien Museum)</p>
Johann Christian Schoeller (1782—1851), “Sonnenfnsternis, 8. Juli 1842” (water colour, paper). (Photo: Wien Museum)

The afternoon of Monday 8 April will feel strange here in the County. We are in the direct path of a solar eclipse. At 2:08, the moon will begin to move between earth and the sun. At 3:21 it will completely cover the sun for just over three minutes, and the County will be plunged into night. 

By 4:33, the moon will have moved on and the day will proceed as though nothing at all had happened.

But, of course, this is not nothing. An astronomical event in the neighbourhood is rare. There will be 68 total solar eclipses in the entire twenty-first century, but only one other will cross Canada—out West in 2044.

Although nearby neighbours will experience a partial eclipse, they may choose to come here to get the real thing.

And that is a concern. Chief Chad Brown of Prince Edward County Fire and Rescue has informed council that the County is preparing for something like a peak holiday weekend in the summer tourist season. Although no official events are planned, the County may be inundated with sunglass-sporting sun-gazers. 

The Emergency Management Program Committee has budgeted for portable washroom facilities at municipal sites and extra road signs to direct traffic, as well as law and parking enforcement. Updates are available at the County website.

Most important for individuals to consider is the safety of their eyes as they observe the eclipse. Gary Boyle, Ontario’s “Backyard Astronomer,” reminds us to “never look at the sun without a solar filter. Never use a do-it-yourself hack seen online as this could be a recipe for eye damage, if not blindness. Sunglasses are great when driving, walking, etc., but should never be used to look directly at the sun. If eclipse glasses cannot be found, a piece of number 14 welder’s glass can also be used.”

Once the moon completely covers the sun along the eclipse path, the eclipse is be safe to look at. The outer corona of the sun is only observed with human eyes during totality. This appears as the famous halo around the sun. Mr. Boyle notes we will be able to also see the bright planet Jupiter in the eleven o’clock position, and Venus down at five o’clock.

Keep in mind that there are only three minutes of total coverage before you need your glasses again. Glasses may be hard to find. Don’t settle for less than those properly labelled “ISO 12312-2.”

“When using a telescope, binoculars or a camera always place the filter in front to reduce the sun’s glare before it is magnified or imaged. Never place a filter behind the eyepiece as the concentrated solar beam acts as a laser and melts the filter — and unfortunately your eye. You will also damage or melt your camera or smartphone sensor.”

“If a solar filter or welder’s glass is not available, you can use a simple spaghetti or vegetable strainer or virtually anything with small round holes to project the image onto a surface. Hold the kitchen tool about a foot off the ground and look at the projection of numerous semi-circles as the moon moves in front of the sun. You can then take a picture of the projection safely as you are not looking directly at the bright solar disk. A pinhole camera made from a cereal box is a great project with children. Plans can be found online.”

Mr. Boyle’s website www.wondersofastronomy.com offers further detail about this and other astronomical events.

At time of writing, glasses were available at Meadows in Picton, or bundled with PEC T-shirt Company’s “PECLIPSE” shirts. The Royal Hotel, Huff Estates winery and the Drake are all hosting events, among others.

This text is from the Volume 194 No. 14 edition of The Picton Gazette
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