Chasing the total eclipse: amateur astronomer heads south to 'path of totality'

It's a total eclipse of Garry Dymond's heart, as the St. John's amateur astronomer is heading to the U.S. to catch the best view of the country's first total eclipse in 99 years.

Garry Dymond is travelling from St. John's to Wyoming to see Monday's total solar eclipse

Garry Dymond headed from St. John's to Wyoming, because it's considered the best place to view Monday's solar eclipse. (Paula Gale)

It's a total eclipse of Garry Dymond's heart as the St. John's amateur astronomer is headed to the U.S. to catch the best view of the first total eclipse to cross the country coast to coast in 99 years.

Dymond says it's a thrill of his lifetime, and worth the trip to Wyoming since it's in what is called the "path of totality" – the best place in the world to see the sun, moon and earth align perfectly.

"This is the thing in astronomy right now, especially amateur astronomy. People are crazy about total eclipses," he says.

Astronomers refer to it as "the Great American Eclipse," so for the member of the Royal Astronomical Society in St. John's, it has to be seen in person. 

Tourists watch the sun being blocked by the moon during a solar eclipse in the Australian outback town of Lyndhurst, December 4, 2002. REUTERS/David Gray DG/CP - RTREU1E (David Gray/Reuters)

Wyoming is one of 14 U.S. states between Oregon and South Carolina that will actually experience a total solar eclipse, where the moon completely blocks the sun. 

The demand for viewing sites in the total eclipse area was so great that Dymond had to make reservations for Wyoming a year in advance. 

The wind starts to pick up. The hair on the back of your neck starts to stick up.- Garry Dymond

He said he's bringing plenty of equipment with him to view and record the eclipse – like a specially-equipped telescope and digital camera.

Experts are reminding anyone who plans to watch the solar eclipse to wear proper protective eyewear.

For Dymond, this is the third time he will see an eclipse and he said it's an amazing phenomenon.

Best seen first-hand

"You'll see bits of the sun being bitten out, eaten away bit by bit. Then just before totality, you'll see these shadow bands, like snakes on the ground," Dymond told the St. John's Morning Show Friday. 

"The wind starts to pick up. The hair on the back of your neck starts to stick up."

Dymond added that actually witnessing an event like this is better than a second-hand account.

"You can talk about it and see photographs but that's why people come back and back," he said.

The eclipse is expected to start Monday afternoon at 3:29 Newfoundland time, with maximum coverage of the sun an hour later, although people in this province will only see about a 40 per cent eclipse.

In St. John's, the Johnson Geo Centre is hosting a solar eclipse viewing party and live streaming NASA's coverage of the eclipse Monday from 2:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

The event, hosted in conjunction with the local chapter of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, is weather-dependent. 

with files from Krissy Holmes