Canadians across the country put on protective glasses, glanced through solar telescopes and scrutinized pinhole projectors to take in a partial solar eclipse Monday.

Unlike the U.S., Canada didn’t see a total solar eclipse, where the moon completely covers the sun, blacking out the sky and turning day into night momentarily. But Canadians still turned out in large numbers for a celestial show.

Victoria had the best view of the event, with 90 per cent of the sun blocked out above the British Columbia capital. The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada said Vancouver enjoyed 86 per cent coverage, Calgary 77 per cent, Toronto 70 per cent and Halifax 48 per cent.

Many who watched the eclipse expressed enthusiasm and awe at the sight of the sun slowly being partially covered by the moon.

“It’s a once in a lifetime experience,” said Sarah Tanveer, who travelled to Vancouver from Port Coquitlam, B.C., to watch the event at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, where a large crowd broke into a cheer when the eclipse reached its peak.

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.

“I expected people. I didn’t expect this many,” he said. “It’s great that people are fascinated. It just goes to show just how much people are interested in the universe.”

While many donned special glasses before turning their gaze to the sky, others made pinhole projectors out of shoeboxes and cereal boxes, 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 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.

Solar telescopes were another way some were watching the eclipse.

Mankaran Chani was one of them. The 12-year-old 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 a 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. “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,” he said. “I think it’s going to look like a cookie that’s been bitten.”

In Toronto, the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics 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 there 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.

Burlington, Ont., resident Jason Continenza shared that enthusiasm, saying he came down to the CNE with his family so he could catch the eclipse with the masses.

“It’s a sight to be seen,” the 43-year-old 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.

“Now it’s actually happening,” she said. “I think it’s really interesting because you can kind of make out the moon.”

Meanwhile, Momin Gilani, of Markham, Ont., said he was already looking forward to the next solar eclipse in 2024, when parts of Canada will see a total eclipse.

“I have never seen anything like that before,” the 19-year-old said. “I think it was fun and I got to learn a lot.”

In Halifax, hundreds of people gathered outside the Discovery Centre, an interactive science museum, to catch a glimpse of the event.

Karen Nieuwland built her own solar eclipse-viewing device using a shoe box, tinfoil, tape and a strategically placed hole. She was a young girl when she saw her first eclipse, and it spurred a lifelong interest.

“It’s great to see so many young, curious children here,” she said.

Paul Heath, outreach chair for the Halifax Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society, said the eclipse was an exciting event and will likely encourage interest in astronomy.

“Solar eclipses happen two or three times a year so they’re not that rare, but because the moon changes position in its orbit, it could be anywhere on the earth,” he said. “To have it where it’s not in the middle of an ocean, or in the middle of Antarctica or the Himalayas … it’s a fairly rare event and there is a lot of interest.”


The Canadian Press