Partial eclipse will be visible across Canada


Clayton Uyeda and his wife Jo will be on a ferry — en route from Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island to Tsawwassen on the mainland — when the partial solar eclipse in Canada begins in Victoria at 9:08 a.m. Monday.

“It’s more intimate,” says Uyeda, 59, a math, physics and astronomy teacher at Victoria High School.

“I am expecting to have a real sense of connection with the heavens.”

As for his students, Uyeda hopes the eclipse will help them realize that they are part of something grander than their social status or image. He thinks teenagers could benefit from looking up instead of down at their handheld devices.

“Hopefully, (the eclipse) is empowering,” Uyeda says.

Victoria will offer the best eclipse view in Canada, with 90 per cent of the sun blocked out.

However, unlike our cousins to the south, Canada won’t see a total solar eclipse, where the moon will completely cover the sun, blacking out the sky and turning day into night momentarily. It will only be seen along the so-called path of totality, which is a narrow band from Oregon to South Carolina.

Canada is still in for a treat with a partial eclipse, though. Imagine the sun as “a glowing cookie with a bite taken out of it,” says Matt West of the Saint John Astronomy Club, noting that the rare moment is “exciting” instead of “overwhelming” like totality.

Plus, viewing events are being held across Canada, from Ottawa’s Canada Aviation and Space Museum to McGill University to Victoria’s Mount Tolmie Park. No matter which party Canadians choose to crash, they should don eclipse glasses to prevent serious eye damage.

Toronto will enjoy 70 per cent coverage, Calgary 77 per cent and Vancouver 86 per cent, according to the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

Jennifer West, an astronomer at the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, says that during a partial eclipse, the sun will shine through the spaces between the leaves of trees, which can act like a pinhole camera. It explains why you will find little crescent suns projected on the sidewalk.

For those who are not near trees, West says a cheese grater, a colander or even a piece of paper with a hole will do the trick. Look down at the ground, she cautions, and never directly at the sun.

In Toronto, the Dunlap Institute will be hosting a watching party at the Canadian National Exhibition, where about 20 astronomers will be at hand with solar telescopes and eclipse glasses.

West won’t be one of them. She will see the total eclipse in Nebraska — something she’s been planning since 1997.

In Calgary, staff at the city’s zoo say they’ll be keeping a close eye on the animals Monday — not because of any serious concern but more so out of curiosity.

“It happens so rarely that we’ve never been able to document what happened in the past with these eclipses,” says Doug Whiteside, the senior staff veterinarian at the Calgary Zoo.

Whiteside says the eclipse is a short duration so he’s not expecting to see anything significant and there is no concern that the animals could suffer eye damage once the eclipse is at its peak.

“The majority of animals don’t naturally stare up at the sun anyways so we don’t anticipate any problems with that.”

It’s not quite the same for humans. Huma Baig, 51, of Mississauga, Ont., would know. Her one and only memory of a partial eclipse dates back to her childhood in 1970s Pakistan. When she tried to join the adults who were using cut up x-ray sheets, her uncle caught her and told her to stay inside. He feared it would damage her eyes.

But she says she’s always been “crazy” for suns and stars.

“It’s something out of this world,” says Baig, who is excited to see the eclipse from the CNE with proper eyewear this time.

For the young, however, the partial eclipse on Monday will likely be their first.

Markham, Ont., resident Shirleen Datt will have a picnic with her mom and dog before joining the York Region Astronomy Club and the public to watch the eclipse outside the Richmond Hill Public Library in the afternoon.

“Taking a step back and looking at what exists out there — aside from us — is really beautiful,” says the 23-year-old. “It’s going to make people’s jaws drop.”

Still, like all good things, the partial eclipse in Canada will end – in Saint John, N.B., minutes before 5 p.m. Monday.

There, Maggie Bockus, 64, who is retired, will join friends at Irving Nature Park, one of two viewing parties being held by the Saint John Astronomy Club.

The last time she tried to catch a partial eclipse, she was a teenager and it was through a shoebox with a pinhole from her sister’s bedroom, circa 1970.

Needless to say, it didn’t work, which is why Bockus can’t wait to observe “the awesomeness of our galaxy” with eclipse glasses. She knows the experience will humble her.

“I’m just in awe of all life,” Bockus says.

— With a file from Bill Graveland in Calgary.