John Byrne sat his grandchild down, flicked off the lights and beamed a flashlight at the globe in front of him. As Byrne turned the model Earth, explaining to the small boy the phases of the moon, Adiv Paradise stared in wonder.

It's a feeling that never quite left Paradise, who's been marvelling at the mechanics of the universe ever since those childhood lessons. Now, nearly two decades later, the University of Toronto astronomy student has travelled some 4,000 kilometres to his grandfather's Oregon home, ready to witness the motion of heavenly bodies with his own eyes.

"I've always liked looking at the stars. It's a way to understand how the world works, and what our place is in the universe," Paradise said. 

Paradise's grandfather, a scientist himself, lives in Corvallis, Oregon, where Paradise is now staying. "It's conveniently in the path of totality," Paradise said, explaining why he loaded his car with a tent — and two similarly curious friends, also astronomy students — and drove across the continent for a show that, at its most enthralling, will last only a few minutes.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing," he said.

The trio carved their own path across North America to reach Oregon, passing through 10 states in six days, stopping in national forests to photograph the star-smattered night sky.

The road trip was a first experience for Jason Leung, but the 28-year-old has glimpsed an eclipse before, in 1998. Clouds thwarted the experience that day, and Leung says he's been waiting 20 years for another chance. 

"It was something I really couldn't turn down," he said.

chasers

It's not Jason Leung's first eclipse, but it was his first cross-country road trip. (Supplied by Adiv Paradise)

The eclipse chasers have high hopes for clear skies, but Paradise says even if Monday morning brings cloudy weather, the eclipse would still be "quite astounding." 

"When totality begins, you lose an enormous amount of sunlight. It gets very, very dark. The stars come out, birds go to sleep," he said.

"Even people who think they're not going to cry have an emotional response," he added. "We'll see. For me, whenever I get any kind of experience that gives me a sense of the scale of the world we live in, the solar system, the universe, that's an emotional experience. This should be no different."

Paradise, a teaching assistant, now brings a globe to his own astronomy classes, inspired by his grandfather's lessons. "It does seem to help," he admits. "The phases of the moon are one of the most misunderstood topics we teach."

Monday's eclipse will be a first for Byrne, now 89, who'll be looking to the sky from his deck as the moon begins to creep in front of the sun's corona, his grandson beside him — no doubt wearing the same look of awe he first shared with Byrne all those years ago.

"He was a smart little kid. Always had his nose in a book," Byrne recalled, pride in his voice. "He's working on his doctorate now. That's gratifying."