May 17th, 2024

Astronomy Club gives spectators a safe view of the solar eclipse

By Lethbridge Herald on April 8, 2024.

Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman Event attendees utilize equipment provided by the Lethbridge Astronomy Society to watch the solar eclipse Monday at the Oldman River Observatory.

Alejandra Pulido-Guzman

The Lethbridge Astronomy Society gave dozens of people an opportunity to safely watch the solar eclipse Monday by using specialized equipment at the Oldman River Observatory. 

Perry Sabey, secretary of the LAS, said even though it was not a total eclipse, there was a lot of interest in witnessing the once-in -a-lifetime event and that is why they decided to open the observatory to the public. 

“What we’re getting today is about 30 per cent of the diameter of the sun covered by the moon, so it’s not quite enough to cause any sort of really spectacular effects that a near total eclipse would cause, but it should be interesting enough that we wanted to hold a public event and watch the process,” said Sabey. 

He explained the total solar eclipse was mostly visible in the eastern seaboard and that is why in Lethbridge we were only able to witness a partial eclipse. 

“What we’re getting here is not so much the after effects, but we’re getting a partial or a lesser event of the eclipse, when some of the disk of the sun is covered rather than the entire thing which is a little bit more common than a total solar eclipse.”

Sabey said people are usually more interested in total solar eclipses because they are rare, but he explained that is actually not entirely true. 

“That’s partially true, partially not true, because solar eclipses on average happen two and a half times every year. They tend to happen in the ocean most of all because most of the earth’s surface is ocean and any one location on the earth surface over the course of a human lifetime.” 

He said when total eclipses occur they tend to have a really dramatic effect, and shared his experience with one.  

“I’ve had the privilege to go to the Great American Eclipse in 2017 that went through pretty much across, from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and I can say it was one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever seen in my life for precisely three and a half to four minutes.” 

Malik Merchant, one of the event’s participants travelled to Lethbridge from Calgary on Monday to be able to have a better view of the eclipse. 

“I read the news and they told me that it was going to be four per cent more over here than in Calgary and the weather was not going to be very certain in terms of clear skies, so I traveled here and I’m really happy to be here,” said Merchant. 

He said it was great to be able to see the eclipse through the equipment provided at the observatory and thanks to it he was enjoying it even more. 

“I’ve taken some good pictures and it’s been a thrilling day for me actually,” said Merchant. 

When talking about the equipment used for the event Sabey explained the different types they had to offer people who attended. 

“We have a few solar telescopes that can only look at the sun, so usually telescopes are designed to look at low light objects, but our solar telescopes are only designed to look at the brightest thing in the sky,” said Sabey. 

He said they are built in such a way that allows for the observer to look at bright object, including the sun for extended periods of time without going blind. 

“One of the members has built a viewer that lets us look at the eclipse indirectly using reflected sunlight, so that’s the other way to safely do it if you don’t have dedicated equipment.” 

He said those who were lucky enough to get a hold of some solar viewing glasses that are ISO approved to cover all of the wavelengths and the intensity of sunlight were encouraged to bring them as well.

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