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Star gazing: Partial solar eclipse the highlight of October

On Oct. 14 the sun will be partially blocked by the moon
The Great Orbax.

Greetings Star Gazers!

Orbax here. 

I’m a Science Communicator from the Department of Physics at the University of Guelph and I’m here to fill you in on what our October night skies hold for the astro-curious out there, young and old.

There is so much happening this month. Planet spotting, TWO meteor showers, International Observe the Moon night, but our big news this month is the partial solar eclipse.

Our last solar eclipse that was visible from Guelph took place in 2017. While eclipses seem rare, they actually occur several times a year. Unfortunately for us we live on a big spinning ball and because of that our visibility doesn’t line up with the eclipse that often but on Oct. 14, at 1 p.m., we will!

A solar eclipse occurs when the sun, the moon and the Earth all line up in a straight line. When that happens the moon blocks our view of the sun for a few seconds and that’s what we call a total eclipse. Now over the last few months I’ve been talking to you about supermoons, which occur when the moon, in its elliptical orbit, happens to be slightly closer to the Earth than usual and appears a little larger.

This also means that there are times when the moon is further away than usual and it appears smaller to us. When that smaller looking moon blocks the sun during an eclipse, it isn’t close enough to block out ALL of the Sun. This is called an annular eclipse, or a ring of fire eclipse, because instead of a dark shadow in place of the sun’s rays we see a ring of light.

This is what will be happening on Oct. 14. 

The ring of fire eclipse will be visible across a large swath of North and South America but, unfortunately, we won’t be in a position to see it. What we WILL be able to see is a partial solar eclipse. Starting around noon the moon will start to move in front of the sun, blocking out a maximum of 30 per cent of the sun around 1 p.m. and then receding back to full sunlight by 2:30 p.m. While this is a rare opportunity to experience a partial solar eclipse we will actually be in the path of a nearly total solar eclipse next year on April 8, when we experience 99.4 per cent coverage!

It is very dangerous to look at an eclipse without proper safety equipment. To learn more about how to safely view a solar eclipse check out here.

I hope you enjoy this month’s Star Gazing Guide. If you want to learn more check out the October Star Gazing Guide video on the Guelph Physics YouTube channel.  Not only is Star Gazing a great way to learn about space, planets and the stars but it’s also a great way to spend time with other curious minds. 

Until next month I hope you take some time … to look up. 


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