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Blackout 101: What Londoners need to know for ultra-rare solar eclipse

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A total solar eclipse of the sun will make the sky go dark over Southwestern Ontario, and far beyond, for a few minutes on April 8. Preparations are underway for the mid-afternoon phenomenon, including the Thames Valley and London Catholic school boards rescheduling a professional activity day to that Monday, so kids will be home when the suns disappears. Our Beatriz Baleeiro looks up – way up – to find everything you need to know about the looming eclipse

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WHAT IS A TOTAL ECLIPSE?

The sun, Earth and moon align. When the moon gets directly between the sun and the Earth, it creates a shadow on our planet that’s about 160 kilometres wide, travelling across the surface of the Earth at more than 2,000 kilometres an hour. The moon completely blocks out the sun before its orbit takes it out of the sun’s path, producing a few minutes of total darkness.


WHEN IS THE ECLIPSE IN SOUTHWESTERN ONTARIO?

The event happens between 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., as the moon’s orbit brings it between Earth and the sun, blocking the sun from view.

People in a 185-kilometre-wide band stretching from Mexico to the Maritimes will see a total eclipse that will last about four minutes. The last time there was a total eclipse in Ontario was in February 1979; the next one will be 120 years from now.



eclipse time



HOW FREQUENTLY DOES AN ECLIPSE HAPPEN?

Eclipses happen two to three times a year at various places around the world with a total eclipse happening about once every 18 months.


WHY DOES IT HAPPEN?

The sun disappears from view, either completely or partly, when the moon moves between it and the Earth. The moon is 400 times smaller than the sun and 400 times closer to the Earth, so the two objects seem roughly the same size. When the moon is closer to Earth on its elliptical orbit, it is large enough to completely cover the sun for several minutes.

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HOW DO I SAFELY LOOK AT THE ECLIPSE?

It’s essential to take safety measures to protect your eyes while watching the celestial show, such as wearing special eclipse glasses. Infrared and ultraviolet radiation could seriously damage your retina, so eye protection is essential.


WHERE CAN I GET GLASSES?

London Public Library branches have a limited number available.

The glasses also can be purchased online. Information about Canadian ISO-certified eclipse glasses sellers can be found right here.


WHERE CAN I VIEW THE ECLIPSE?

Western University’s Cronyn Observatory will not be open for the public on Monday, because astronomers will be travelling to be in the path of the total eclipse.

At Port Stanley, free parking is available with extra porta potties and glasses available at the visitor centre.

The Backus-Page House Museum, 29424 Lakeview Line, Wallacetown, is hosting a free viewing parting with a food truck and artisan vendors from noon to 5 p.m.

Total Eclipse of the Park is being held at the John R. Park Homestead Conservation Area in Essex County, at 915 Essex County Road 50. The $15 entry fee includes pair of ISO- and CE-Certified eclipse glasses.

bbaleeiro@postmedia.com



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