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A partial eclipse will (hopefully) be visible in Montreal Saturday afternoon

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Montrealers are in for a real treat on Saturday, weather permitting: a partial solar eclipse.

The phenomenon will begin at 12:11 p.m., reaching its peak about an hour later. Unfortunately, the forecast threatens gloomy skies -- but with a little good fortune, we'll get a peek of the marvel through the clouds.

The last eclipse visible in Montreal occurred in 2017. Like this one, it was a partial solar eclipse, meaning some of the sun was still visible when the moon passed in front of it.

"Across much of Canada we'll see a partial eclipse. Basically, we're not in the pathway where the entire disc of the moon goes totally in front of the sun. It goes partially, so it looks like a bite will be taken out of the sun," space columnist Andrew Fazekas told CTV News.

Partial or not, looking at an eclipse directly can damage the eyes. That's where eclipse glasses, or "solar viewers," come in, capable of filtering out harmful radiation.

"Even when the eclipse is 99 per cent still there, it's still enough to damage your eyes," said Loïc Quesnel, animator with the Montreal Planetarium.

Should Mother Nature be uncooperative, Montrealers can watch the eclipse live on NASA's YouTube channel. It's not a bad deal, since the eclipse will be even more dramatic in the southern U.S., where NASA is streaming from.

TOTAL ECLIPSE COMING SOON

Astronomers have observed and documented eclipses for centuries, and even millennia in some cultures. To this day, astronomers professional and amateur travel the world to get the best view.

As luck would have it, Quebec will get a complete and total eclipse on April 8, when the entire sky will go dark.

"If you're in the right place at the right time, you get to really see a beautiful event unfold in the sky. And of course, with the solar eclipse, it's the most magical of all sky events," said Fazekas.

One way to track the next solar eclipse is through the One Eclipse app, developed by Astronomers Without Borders.

The proceeds go towards funding STEM education resources, said Fazekas, who works with the organization, as well as redistributing eclipse glasses to kids around the world.

"We also do eclipse glasses recycling," he said. "We've collected millions of glasses in North America over the last years and we send them to places like Ethiopia, Columbia, Brazil, Nigeria, Malaysia. And children are using these safe glasses to look at it, because otherwise they don't have a change to see the eclipse."  

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