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Frequency of solar eclipses

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World Map of Total and Annular Eclipses of the Sun, 2001-2040
Photo: Adapted from F. Espenak, NASA/GSFC

Solar eclipses are arguably the most impressive astronomical phenomena one can observe. But how often do they occur?

Between two and five solar eclipses happen each year somewhere on Earth. Whereas partial eclipses can be observed from a wide geographical area, total or annular eclipses can only be seen from a narrow strip on the surface of the Earth. For a given place, total or annular solar eclipses are therefore quite rare; and to witness such an eclipse, one usually must travel to a location where the event is visible.

Total eclipses of the sun, the most spectacular kind, happen on average every 375 years for a given location. But this being an average, some locations will be more favoured than others. For example, the last total solar eclipse visible from Montreal occurred on August 31, 1932, and the next one will happen on April 8, 2024, with only 91 years separating the two events. At the other end of the spectrum, the citizens of Regina, Sask., really don’t fare as well: we must rewind the clock all the way back to the year 55 B.C. to find the last total solar eclipse visible from there, and the next one isn’t due to happen until the year 2153 — a whopping 2207 years later!

The total solar eclipse of August 21, 2017 is the first of its kind to be visible from North America in the 21st century. The last total eclipse visible from the North American continent happened on February 26, 1979: The inhabitants of southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba, northwestern Ontario, and far northern Quebec were able to see this event.

Some may recall the eclipse of July 10, 1972, which crossed the Gaspé Peninsula, or the eclipse of August 20, 1963, which was visible from the Mauricie region. If you had the chance to witness either one of these eclipses, there’s no doubt that you keep imperishable memories of the event.

Eclipse chasers take note: the next total solar eclipses (after August 21, 2017) will happen on July 2, 2019, and December 14, 2020. Both will be visible from the South Pacific Ocean, Chile, and Argentina.

The following table shows the date of the last and next total solar eclipse visible from a selection of localities in Québec and elsewhere in Canada.

In Québec

Locality Last Total Eclipse Next Total Eclipse Interval
Baie-Comeau 10 July 1972 18 Sept. 2620   648 y   2 m   8 d
Chibougamau 12 May 1203 18 Sept. 2620 1417 y   4 m   6 d
Chisasibi 31 August 1932 28 June 2690   757 y   9 m 28 d
Gaspé 12 May 1203 29 Feb. 2500 1296 y 10 m 17 d
Gatineau 10 Sept. 1569 17 July 2205   635 y 10 m   7 d
Kuujjuaq 22 May 1724 26 May 2245   521 y   0 m   4 d
Montréal 31 August 1932 8 April 2024     91 y   7 m   8 d
Québec 16 May 1379 17 July 2205   826 y   2 m   1 d
Sherbrooke 31 August 1932 8 April 2024     91 y   7 m   8 d
Trois-Rivières 20 July 1963 17 July 2205   241 y 11 m 28 d

Elsewhere in Canada

Locality Last Total Eclipse Next Total Eclipse Interval
St. John’s NL 3 Feb. 1440 17 July 2205   765 y   5 m 14 d
Charlottetown PE 10 July 1972 1 May 2079   106 y   9 m 21 d
Halifax NS 7 March 1970 1 May 2079   109 y   1 m 24 d
Fredericton NB 30 Nov. 932 8 April 2024 1091 y   4 m   9 d
Ottawa ON 10 Sept. 1569 17 July 2205   635 y 10 m   7 d
Toronto ON 24 Jan. 1925 26 Oct. 2144   219 y   9 m   2 d
Winnipeg MB 26 Feb. 1979 7 June 2263   284 y   3 m 12 d
Regina SK 19 May –54 17 Oct. 2153 2207 y   4 m 28 d
Edmonton AB 17 June 1433 23 August 2044   611 y   2 m   6 d
Calgary AB 7 August 1869 23 August 2044   175 y   0 m 16 d
Yellowknife NT 28 July 1851 3 June 2554   702 y 10 m   6 d
Vancouver BC 19 June 1670 3 August 2771 1101 y   1 m 15 d
Victoria BC 17 June 1433 24 April 2563 1129 y 10 m   7 d
Whitehorse YT 7 August 1869 21 July 2354   484 y 11 m 14 d

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