A few thousand solar eclipse enthusiasts braved the blazing heat Monday afternoon to watch the rare event unfold under clear skies at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.
Members of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) set up a dozen telescopes with solar filters around the museum property for the public to peer through as the eclipse progressed.
Experts confirmed the event began at 1:17 — with 61 per cent of the sun covering the moon at the peak at 2:35 — and ended at 3:48.
“This is monumental. This is historical, just (being) with everybody here,” said Michele Lanoue, who arrived several hours early with her friend to get one of the 2,000 safety filters that were handed out by the museum and RASC. “I enjoy the city of Ottawa. I enjoy doing all kinds of activities for the (Canada) 150 right now, so this is just another thing on my bucket list — to do this and experience this with other people.
Chris Teron, an amateur astronomer with RASC, fielded questions from eager visitors excited to better understand what they were about to see.
“This afternoon we will see the first tiny piece of the sun missing,” he explained. “And gradually that will get bigger and bigger until 61 per cent of the sun will be eclipsed by the moon, so we will see a crescent sun just like a crescent moon.”
Teron said that in addition to wearing safe viewing glasses, the public could also see the eclipse in a safely in other ways, including using a homemade pinhole viewer — essentially a piece of paper or cone with a pin hole that projects an image of the sun onto the ground. Children were given markers to colour their own pinhole cameras inside the museum.
“The crowds have been quite enthusiastic, so we’ve seen lots of lineups and people anticipating the event, looking for glasses,” said museum spokesperson Zoe Lomer. “But we’ve been encouraging people to take turns … and the eclipse itself goes on for over an hour, so we’re telling people to share.”
Bryan Beecham watches the eclipse as the partial solar eclipse is observed at an event held by the Royal Astronomical Society at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa. Photo Wayne Cuddington/ Postmedia
Rabina Ali, who was visiting Ottawa from Saudi Arabia, felt compelled to be among the crowd given it was her first solar eclipse.
“It’s spectacular,” she said, looking through her safety lens. “You can see the moon coming toward (the sun). It’s a beautiful view … it’s the first time I’m viewing, otherwise I would have watched it on TV.”
Ten-year-old Kayden MacKinnon sat with his grandparents on the museum lawn. With his protected eyes tilted toward the sun, he expressed excitement over his first solar eclipse experience.
“I think it’s really cool. It looks like an orange circle with a black circle moving onto the sun. It’s pretty cool to see a 61 per cent eclipse.”
Teron said the next solar eclipse to be seen in this region will offer an even better view.
“We have another total solar eclipse coming very close to us in seven years in 2024,” said Teron. “And the incredible view of the solar eclipse happens if you are on the path of totality, and that path will be as close as Kingston, Ont.”
Olivia Siegel, 6, takes a look through a telescope as the partial solar eclipse is observed at an event held by the Royal Astronomical Society at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa. Photo Wayne Cuddington/ Postmedia