Attendees at the Elder College Saturday Speakers Series event on the upcoming solar eclipse try on their special eclipse glasses at Nanoose Bay Community Hall. — Anne-Marie Lafleur

Solar eclipse viewing event in Qualicum Beach

Instructor to provide special glasses, telescopes to safely view rare sight

The upcoming solar eclipse won’t be the first David Prud’homme has seen, but he’s hoping he can make it yours.

Prud’homme, along with VIU ElderCollege and the Town of Qualicum Beach, is holding a solar eclipse viewing event at the Qualicum Beach waterfront the morning of Aug. 21, where people can safely view the eclipse.

It’s been 38 years since the last total solar eclipse crossed the United States, though there are about one-and-a-half solar eclipses each year, said Prud’homme.

Solar eclipses happen when the moon passes directly between the Earth and the sun. Due to the rotation of the Earth and the moon’s location, a given solar eclipse is only viewable from a particular area of the Earth.

For Parksville Qualicum Beach residents and the rest of B.C., about 90 per cent of the sun will be blocked by the moon, making it a partial eclipse.

Prud’homme, and amateur astronomer and instructor at VIU ElderCollege, has witnessed three other solar eclipses before, though none so close to home.

“I was in Aruba for the first one, then I went to the middle of the Libyan Sahara desert for the second, and then I went to Queensland, Australia for the third,” he said.

This time, the solar eclipse is about getting more people to look up at the sky in wonder, and safely.

“Fairly quick blindness or damage to the eye is very likely with even a few seconds of staring at the sun,” he said. “It will just basically burn out your retina.”

It’s actually just as dangerous to look at the sun during an eclipse as it is to look at it any normal day, he said. The only difference is people are apt to stare at an eclipse for longer than they might look at the sun.

“It’s just that people are sort of thinking, ‘Gee, I want to see this, let’s see, can I see the moon up there?’ (for example). And they stare at the sun, trying to see the shadow … So if you’re trying to stare at that point of light trying to see a little shadow on it, you are going to focus too much and it’s just like a magnifying glass. Your lens will focus that light on the back of your eye, and damage (results).”

But Prud’homme will have several pairs of glasses made for viewing eclipses, with lenses so dark that almost nothing but things as bright as the sun can be seen through them. They also block harmful light.

He’ll also have a pair of telescopes outfitted with filters that do the same thing.

The event runs from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 21, at the Qualicum Beach waterfront near where Bay Street meets Island Highway West.

Prud’homme said he’s excited to show people the rare event. “I love sharing this stuff… it’s jut a pleasure to get people excited about looking at the sky.”

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