Astronomers and astronomy buffs have had August 21 circled on their calendars for months as a total eclipse of the sun will occur along a path across the United States and Calgarians will have an opportunity to witness a partial eclipse.

“It’s a path of totality across Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming and points further east, where you can see the total eclipse for about two, two-and-a-half minutes, where the sun will disappear and turn into a black hole in the sky,” explained Alan Dyer, an astronomy author and photographer. “Only in that narrow path, which is only about 100 kilometres wide, will you see the total eclipse with 100 per cent of the sun covered.”

“Even if you’re just a few kilometres outside of the path, north or south, you’ll see 99 per cent partial.”

In Calgary, approximately 80 per cent of the sun will be blocked by the moon at the peak of the eclipse at 11:30 a.m. Dyer says the city may appear dimmer during the phenomenon but special instruments are required to witness the overlapping of the celestial bodies.

“Unless you have a special filter or telescope, you wouldn’t really know anything different was going on in the sun.”

James Durbano, a Calgary-based astronomer will be travelling with his wife and children to Nebraska to observe the totality. “It’s a pretty big event. It doesn’t happen very often so we’re going to make the most of it.”

“I’ve seen 10 solar eclipses in my life but I’ve never been in the path of totality before,” said Durbano. “This is the first time that I’m going to see 100 per cent of the sun blocked out by the moon.”

“A solar eclipse is one of the most awe inspiring natural events that occurs. Although there’s one that occurs somewhere in the world once a year, they’re usually in far off places like Siberia or the South Pacific Ocean or Antarctica. To have a solar eclipse visible here, right across North America, it’s quite a spectacular thing.”

The astronomer says he’s expecting to encounter crowds in Nebraska and South Dakota as businesses near the area of totality have begun to capitalize on the influx of visitors.

“The price (for motel accommodation) went up from $79 a night to $199 a night. The price is quite a bit higher the night before the eclipse,” said Durbano. “If you haven’t (reserved) by now, you’re probably too late. It’s booked up pretty solid.”

Durbano’s daughter Avery is looking forward to the trip but he hasn’t been able to discuss the eclipse with others her age. “I am excited,” said Avery. “Most of my friends don’t even know what it is.”

James Durbano will be photographing the totality as part of the 1,000 member strong eclipse mega movie team. The images will be compiled and constructed into a movie.

Alan Dyer says he’s planning to observe the totality from Eastern Idaho as he couldn’t fathom missing out on the rare occurrence. “The last total eclipse of the sun that was visible anywhere near us, it wasn’t over Calgary but it was down in Montana, was February 26, 1979.”

For those unable, or unwilling, to find their way to the path of totality, TELUS Spark will be hosting a family-friendly viewing party of the partial eclipse.

“We’re really excited to invite everybody to TELUS Spark and enjoy the solar eclipse with us. We’re going to have some really interesting ways to view it,” said Melanie Hall, a TELUS Spark representative, who has a background in astronomy and astrophysics. “We’re excited that this one’s during the day when families are here to visit and enjoy it and it’s a really great learning opportunity for people to see something in the sky, be curious about it, maybe get a little creative about trying to view it.”

The event will include access to telescopes, pin-hole projector crafts and a barbeque featuring eclipse burgers.

According to Dyer, North America will next experience a path of totality on April 8, 2024. The path will begin off the coast of Mazatlan, Mexico make its way north through Mexico and the United States, atop many major American cities, narrowly missing Toronto but including Montreal.

With files from CTV’s Kamil Karamali