Chance to view partial solar eclipse draws thousands to aviation museum

They came from all over Ottawa for a celestial spectacle — and the sun and moon delivered. Several thousand people walked, biked and endured traffic jams to get to the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum in the city's east end to catch a glimpse of the partial solar eclipse.

Sun only 60 per cent covered during eclipse peak in Ottawa

Many people were sporting a camera in one hand and a pair of eclipse glasses in the other. (Roger Dubois/CBC News)

They came from all over Ottawa for a celestial spectacle — and the sun and moon delivered. 

Several thousand people walked, biked and endured traffic jams to get to the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in the city's east end to catch a glimpse of the partial solar eclipse which, at its maximum in the Ottawa area, showed the moon covering 60 per cent of the sun. 

Families came with lawn chairs, picnics, and homemade pin-hole cameras to share in the event. 

The museum was handing out free, disposable protective glasses to participants, but they ran out early on. Many people quickly passed a coveted pair of the lenses to a stranger desperate to catch a glimpse. 

The eclipse at its peak covered 60 per cent of the sun in Ottawa. (Roger Dubois/CBC News)

Myles Bunbury took the day off work and came with his wife Summer and young daughter 

"We appreciate astronomy, it's sort of cool," he said "It sets you up in the universe, so to speak, and lets you see the celestial mechanics going off out there." 

Escaping the sights of every day life was thrilling for Bunbury.

"It's just taking time in our hectic lives,  so an eclipse like this one takes two hours to transit and it's nice to slow down and appreciate nature and what it's doing." 

Bunbury's young daughter, Imoen, brought her stuffed bear complete with felt glasses covering his eyes. 

"It's neat because the moon is gobbling up the sun," she said. 

Thousands swarmed the museum lawn to get a chance to view the eclipse safely. (Roger Dubois/CBC News)

Several dozen volunteers from the Royal Canadian Astronomical Society brought telescopes for people to get a sharp, crisp image of the eclipse. 

"The thing that is striking me is that when I look through the view finder there's a really strong sense of three-dimensionality the moon is well in front of the sun. It's amazing," said Gordon Webster, a past president of the society. 

It's important for people come out and appreciate something as rare as a solar eclipse, he said. 

"It really does give you a sense of how small our place is in the world."

Michael and Lori Siewecke take in the solar eclipse in Ottawa on Aug. 21, 2017. (Laurie Fagan/CBC News)

Michael Siewecke took the afternoon off work and biked over in his suit.  He said he came because of the rarity of the event — having last seen a similar eclipse when he was 14 years old. 

"It's fun to be here with all these people and see the interest in science," he said.

His wife, Lori, was constantly checking their son's social media account for updates, as he took his holidays to travel to Knoxville, Tenn. to view the full eclipse. 

"He wished he could be Jean-Luc Picard, the captain of the Starship Enterprise but this is the next best thing," she laughed.