Canadians across the country put on protective glasses, glanced through solar telescopes and scrutinized pinhole projectors to take in a rare solar eclipse Monday.
Unlike the U.S., Canada isn’t getting a total solar eclipse, where the moon completely covers the sun, blacking out the sky and turning day into night momentarily. But Canadians are still in for a show and viewing events are underway across the country.
Victoria was expected to get the best view of the rare celestial event, with 90 per cent of the sun blocked out above the British Columbia capital. The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada said Vancouver would enjoy 86 per cent coverage, Calgary 77 per cent and Toronto 70 per cent.
No matter where Canadians take in the event, they’re were cautioned to wear eclipse glasses to prevent serious eye damage.
In Vancouver, a large crowd gathered on the grass outside the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre and broke into a cheer when the eclipse reached its peak.
“It’s a once in a lifetime experience,” said Sarah Tanveer, who travelled to Vancouver from Port Coquitlam, B.C., to watch the eclipse.
People started showing up at the centre at 6 a.m. in advance of the partial eclipse starting at 9:10 a.m., said Michael Unger, a programs co-ordinator at the centre.
“Everyone is pretty passionate about the eclipse, which is really fun,” he said, noting that the centre ran out of eclipse glasses “very early” and was encouraging people to share.
In addition to the protective glasses, many people at the centre were also toting pinhole shoebox or cereal box projectors, which allow viewers to look at a reflection of the sun on the inside of the box rather than looking at it directly and damaging their eyes.
Arman Tavakoli, 28, and Louise Harding, 24, made a pinhole projector out of a shoebox because they had heard eclipse glasses were sold out everywhere.
“It’s a cool science thing. You get to make your own device and look at it,” said Tavakoli, a math student.
Mankaran Chani, 12, waited in line with his parents to view the eclipse through a solar telescope. He said he was really interested in the science behind the eclipse.
“It’s interesting how the moon can overshadow the sun even though the sun is much bigger than the moon,” he said.
In Calgary, close to 2,000 sun watchers were lined up at the Telus Spark science centre when it opened its doors. Most rushed to the long line of tables to build their own eclipse viewers.
“We did try and get the eclipse glasses and were unable to because they were sold out across Calgary so we got the next best thing,” said Sarah Bain, who was there with her husband Cory and five-year-old twins Nolan and Elizabeth. The eclipse trip was part of a staycation for the family.
“We figured why don’t we come as a family and enjoy the day.”
Raman Kapoor said she wouldn’t have missed an opportunity to see the eclipse with her son and daughter.
“These kind of experiences come once in a lifetime or maybe once in every 20 or 30 years so when you have the opportunity you take it and see what nature has to show us,” she said.
Kapoor’s nine-year-old son, Yuva, had been waiting for the eclipse for weeks.
“I’m really excited to see the eclipse because I’ve never seen one. I think it’s going to look like a cookie that’s been bitten.”
In Toronto, the Dunlap Institute was hosting an eclipse watching party at the Canadian National Exhibition, where about 20 astronomers were on hand with solar telescopes and eclipse glasses.
Luis Canora, 24, of Mississauga, Ont., was at the event to watch his first partial eclipse.
“Most people have to travel really far just to even see an eclipse. The fact that this is happening in our own backyard is amazing,” he said. “There’s so much hype for this.”
Burlington, Ont., resident Jason Continenza, 43, said he decided to come down to the CNE with his family so he could catch the eclipse with the masses.
“It’s a sight to be seen,” he said, noting that he was still in school the last time there was an eclipse in the mid-1980s. “We weren’t allowed to look at it. They pulled the blinds down.”
Anya Fegan, 12, of Burlington, Ont., said she had just learned about the partial eclipse in science class.
“I learned all about it in school and now it’s actually happening,” she said. “I think it’s really interesting because you can kind of make out the moon. The moon is the black part and the sun is the bright orange part.”
In Saint John, where the Saint John Astronomy Club is holding viewing parties at two locations, Maggie Bockus, a retired teacher, said she expects watching the partial eclipse to make her feel “humble.”
“You think what you are doing is so important and then you look up and see the sun and moon,” she said. “You are less than a grain of salt…against this backdrop of majesty and power.”
Some communities, including Toronto and Windsor, Ont., also planned to close their outdoor municipal pools during the eclipse. Windsor’s aquatics manager called it a precautionary move due to the fact swimmers would be unlikely to resist looking up at the sky, even without protective eyewear.