Hamiltonians flock to telescopes, cardboard boxes to view the eclipse

Eclipse fever took over Hamilton Monday as nearly 1,000 people lined up at McMaster University to get a glimpse of the solar phenomenon.

The eclipse peaked around 2:32 p.m. and ended at 3:49 p.m.

This photo, taken by filmmaker Kalinga Deshapriya, shows the eclipse through a pair of safety glasses. (Kalinga Deshapriya)

Eclipse fever took over Hamilton Monday as nearly 1,000 people lined up at McMaster University to get a glimpse of the solar phenomenon.

McMaster graduate students in physics and astronomy organized a sidewalk event to help people view the eclipse safely, and to answer questions.

"I saw the moon right in front of the sun," said Matthew Fticar, who went to McMaster to check it out.

Ty Gibson brought his own pinhole camera to view the eclipse. (Kirthana Sasitharan)

"The sun spots on there were about the size of the earth," he said, relaying information he got from the club. "I saw about 10 of them right along the bottom."

John Thompson, meanwhile, was downtown Hamilton with a pair of glasses he bought at a department store.

"You see about 25 per cent of the sun as an orange orb," he said. "You really don't see the moon. It's just black."

"We're interested in looking at the heavens, and it's just something that doesn't come along very often."

The eclipse peaked around 2:32 p.m. and ended at 3:49 p.m. Social media was full of people who used cardboard boxes and sheets of paper to watch the sun reduced to a sliver.

It should be pretty good viewing.- Nathan Brunetti

The university let people use its 10-inch Dobsonian reflecting telescope with a solar filter.

Many people who came to McMaster came prepared with their own homemade solar eclipse viewing devices such as pinhole cameras made out of cardboard boxes and even a colander. Excited gazers shared their devices with each other as the excitement built around the eclipse's peak. 

Cheryl Walsh came down to McMaster from Burlington with her kids to view the eclipse and the experience did not disappoint. She was even inspired to make pinhole cameras on site.

"It's a nice experience. We started seeing everyone building the [pinhole cameras] so it gave us an idea. Everyone's kinda working together and building it all together," said Walsh. "If you don't get a chance to make your own, it's nice that everyone is sharing. 

"I think it's pretty exciting. I wasn't too sure what to expect," said Walsh.

Physics and astronomy student Nathan Brunetti said the telescope blocks out about 99.9 per cent of the light, allowing for a safe viewing for the eyes.

Brunetti was one of the organizers of the sidewalk event and the response to the viewing was beyond what he expected. 

"I guess I wasn't sure what to expect, but I don't think I was expecting this many people. It's great. I'm really happy people are out taking a look."

Brunetti says the reaction he's encountered from people who have had a chance to view the eclipse has been great. 

"People are really excited about. People can see it [and] they're just surprised and in awe I think," said Brunetti. 

A pinhole camera reflects the eclipse at McMaster University. (Kirthana Sasitharan)

The students also had a few pinhole cameras and eclipse glasses on hand.

Many people waited more than an hour to view the partial eclipse from the McMaster telescope, with lines extending far beyond the length of the Engineering Technology Building.

What is an eclipse?

According to the Canadian Space Agency, a solar eclipse occurs when the moon comes between the earth and the sun, casting a shadow on earth. In the case of a partial eclipse, the sun and the moon are not perfectly aligned, so only a part of the sun is hidden by the moon.

People lined up at McMaster to view the eclipse. (Kirthana Sasitharan)

The agency says a partial eclipse was seen from almost every Canadian city.

Despite the fact that the eclipse goes for about three hours, Brunetti says the peak is pretty short, lasting no more than about a minute.

According to Brunetti, the amount of coverage by the moon and timing is based on the apparent size of the moon relative to the apparent size of the sun. This, he says, is how the path of totality can be determined, and where some of the sun will be viewed from earth.

John Thompson of Oakville tracked down four pairs of eclipse glasses at a department store. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Select areas in the American south between Oregon to South Carolina experienced a total solar eclipse.

What to expect in the Hamilton area

In Hamilton, Brunetti says, between 70 and 80 per cent of the sun was covered.

Joe Chiarerri came down to McMaster to grab a glimpse of the partial eclipse. (Kirthana Sasitharan)

For those on the Mountain, people joined the Hamilton Amateur Astronomer's event at T. B. McQuesten Park to see the eclipse

(Kirthana Sasitharan)

The city also closed its outdoor and wading pools from 2 to 3 p.m.

Artist's rendition of a total solar eclipse. (Canadian Space Agency)

According to the Canadian Space Agency, there are four to seven eclipses per ye ar, but only those people along the path of an eclipse are able to see it.

The next total solar eclipse occurring near Toronto will be in 2024, visible in the Niagara region.

Brunetti says there will be a couple of partial eclipses, similar to today's, that will be viewable in 2021 and 2023.