Solar Media Collective


Total Solar Eclipse on April 8

On April 8, a total solar eclipse will cross North America, passing over parts of Canada, Mexico, and the United States. The Solar Media Collective will gather on Montreal’s Parc Jean-Drapeau to observe and document this rare phenomenon.

When & where
We’ll meet at 2pm at DOCK 5160 Verdun Cultural Centre, which is a 15min walk from Verdun metro. Look for PedalBox and the flag with our logo!

A person with long hair riding a bicycle, pulling a trailer with a sign that reads, "Pedal Box Gallery"

The partial eclipse will begin at 2:14. Totality will occur at 3:26 and last for 1 minute and 26 seconds.

A note on safety
Looking directly at the Sun can cause damage to the eyes even under regular conditions. To experience this event safely, it is highly recommended to use solar viewing glasses or “eclipse glasses.” These have a nearly-opaque filter and are thousands of times darker than regular sunglasses, which are not safe for viewing the Sun.

When purchasing eclipse glasses, make sure they meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard and are intact (i.e. no holes, scratches, or cracks). Indirect viewing methods, such as pinhole projectors (see further below), are also safe ways to view the eclipse.

During the brief window of totality when the Moon completely blocks the bright, visible surface of the Sun, it’s safe to remove your eclipse glasses and look directly at it. As soon as the Sun begins to reappear, put your protective glasses back on.

The Solar Media Collective will provide some solar viewing glasses, but quantities are limited. Our plan is to share them, but we recommend bringing your own if you want to ensure you have one to yourself.

Read on to learn more about this event as well as the activities we have planned.

Silhouette of a city with the sun beaming overhead. The title reads, "Total Solar Eclipse - April 8, 2024"

SMC Activities

The SMC has several activities lined up dedicated to fully experiencing and documenting this incredible event.

Pinhole Projector Maker Session, April 4
One of the ways to watch the partial phases of a solar eclipse without protective glasses is with an indirect viewing method such as a pinhole projector. These are easy to make using a cardboard box, a sheet of white paper, aluminum foil, tape, and some scissors.

We’ll be making some projectors to bring to the event for people to experiment with!

Join us on Thursday April 4, 4-6pm at Concordia University Centre for Creative Reuse.
More info here.

Game Boy Camera Livestream
We’re bringing our beloved Game Boy camera to capture the event in glorious 8-bit resolution. Harnessing an assemblage of residual and contemporary technologies, we’ll try to see how much we can livestream through a platform that has long held a symbiotic relationship to the Sun.

Playthrough of Boktai: The Sun is In Your Hand
In 2003, Konami released a peculiar game for the Game Boy Advice called Boktai: The Sun Is in Your Hand. The game follows a vampire hunter named Django, the Solar Boy tasked with restoring light to a post-apocalyptic future. Thanks to the addition of a UV sensor to the game’s clunky, transparent cartridge, Boktai harnesses real-world sunlight to power Django’s in-game weapon. Consequently, the game changes dramatically when sunlight is not available, since players can no longer defeat their foes. How far will Django get before totality occurs and he can no longer power his weapon?

Background Info

What is a Solar Eclipse?
A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun. When the Moon fully blocks the Sun—a spectacular phenomenon known as a total solar eclipse—the sky will darken as though it were dusk. Weather permitting, those of us on the path of totality will be able to see the Sun’s corona, the outer atmosphere usually obscured by the Sun’s bright surface.

What is the Path of Totality?
The path of totality refers to the trajectory of the Moon’s shadow across the earth’s surface. Within the path of totality, people will see a total solar eclipse; outside the path, they will only see a partial eclipse, where a bright section of the Sun, however small, will remain visible. Although this path is typically thousands of kilometers long (this one is 14,000), it’s usually only a couple of hundred kilometers wide. In order to see the total eclipse, you must be in the path of totality.

Montreal lies on the northern limit of the path of totality. This means that some of the city (and all of Laval) will only experience a partial eclipse. The duration of the total eclipse varies enormously from one place to another with it lasting 30 seconds near Park Jarry and 1 minute 26 seconds at Parc Jean-Drapeau.

You can find a full map here.

Why are solar eclipses so rare?
A solar eclipse only occurs during a new moon, the first lunar phase where the Sun and Moon have the same ecliptic longitude. (Incidentally, a new moon is only visible to the naked eye when set in silhouette against the Sun during a solar eclipse). Not all new moons produce a solar eclipse, however. The event requires the perfect alignment of the moon’s orbit around Earth and the Earth’s orbit around the Sun.

When and Where Can We See It?
Parc Jean-Drapeau is an ideal venue for watching this remarkable phenomenon due to its position relative to the path of totality and the relative lack of obstructions in the landscape (i.e. no big, clunky skyscrapers).

Partial Phase: 2:14 to 3:26
The Moon will gradually move in front of the Sun, beginning to block it from view. The ambient light will decrease and the Sun will start to be seen as a crescent. Even on a cloudy day, the darkening skies will be apparent.

This phase will take around an hour, during which point you can use a pinhole projector to see images of the crescent Sun. Crescent suns will also be projected through tree leaves onto the ground.

Around 10 minutes before totality, shadows will become sharper. This is a great time to play with shadows and see if you can observe more detail. Listen for changes in the sounds of birds or insects; as the light fades, wildlife will begin to act as though night were approaching. Temperatures will also drop several degrees.

Protective eyewear must be worn during this phase.

Totality: 3:26 to 3:28
Within the path of totality, people will be able to see the Moon hide the Sun completely. The sky will darken as though it were dusk and we’ll be able to see the colors of sunset touch the horizon. The brightest stars and planets will be visible in the faux-night sky.

Only the Sun’s corona will be visible around the shape of the moon, its active magnetic field—and the stunning sight we associate with a solar eclipse.

There is no need for protective eyewear during this part of the eclipse. Remove your eclipse glasses to be able to see the event.

Partial Phase: 3:28 to 4:36
Totality will end as the Moon gradually uncovers the Sun. Ambient light will increase, the crescent of the Sun getting larger until it returns to its original shape. You’ll be able to see a bright diamond ring effect as a sliver of sunlight appears on the edge of the Moon.

Crescent suns will appear again as they had in the partial phase before totality.

Protective eyewear must be worn.

Fun Phenomena

Shadow Bands
A minute or two before totality, you can see an eerie phenomenon known as shadow bands. These are thin, wavy lines of alternating light and dark that appear to be moving and are most visible on white or light-colored surfaces. Although we still don’t know exactly what causes this strange phenomenon, they’re believed to be a product of how the Earth’s atmospheric turbulence refracts the light of the solar crescent just before and after totality.

Baily’s Beads
In the seconds before totality, you can see what looks like light dancing on the edges of the Moon or a single bright gleam on one of the Moon’s sides. This phenomenon, named after 19th century astronomer Francis Baily, occurs when bright spots of sunlight shine through the moons and valleys on its surface.

The pink clouds of material that stretch out behind the Moon’s edges are called solar prominences. The color marks the centre of the Sun’s atmosphere, called the chromosphere.

360-degree Sunset
At the horizon, the sky will have a sunset-like glow in all directions. This is called a 360-degree sunset.

Fun Facts

  • The next total eclipse that will cross over North America won’t be until August 23, 2044. The next eclipse in Montreal, specifically, won’t be until 2205.
  • The last total eclipse to occur in Montreal took place in 1932.
  • A total eclipse occurs about once every year and a half, but most solar eclipses occur over the ocean, making them feel rarer than they actually are.
  • The Sun is 400 times larger than the Moon, but also 400 times further away. This creates the illusion that the two objects are the same size. Thanks to this unique relationship between the two, the Moon is able to completely cover the Sun’s disc when it’s directly between the Earth and the Sun.
  • Eventually, Earth will only get annular eclipses. An annular eclipse happens when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth while at its farthest point from the Earth. As a result, it doesn’t completely cover the Sun and instead produces the “ring of fire” effect in the sky. Because the moon is moving about an inch away from the Earth every year, the distance between planetary bodies will eventually no longer allow for the unique phenomenon of a total solar eclipse.
  • The Sun’s outer atmosphere (corona) isn’t usually visible to us because the Sun’s surface is so much better. During a total solar eclipse, however, we’re able to see the corona behind the moon.
  • During totality, nocturnal wildlife sometimes wakes up and daytime wildlife tries to head to sleep because of how much the solar eclipse mimics night.