June 19th, 2024

Total solar eclipse exits North America on Newfoundland’s eastern coast

By Fakiha Baig in Niagara Falls, Ont., and Jordan Omstead in Toronto, The Canadian Press on April 8, 2024.

A total solar eclipse is set to fall over parts of Canada, gathering massive crowds in its path who hope to catch a glimpse of the rare celestial event. A blue sky shines below the sun as a person walks with an infant along the shores of Lake Ontario, a day before a total solar eclipse will be visible in Kingston, Ont., Sunday, April 7, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Earth-bound audiences turned skyward as the sun moved directly behind the moon on Monday, plunging parts of Canada into the darkness of a total solar eclipse and a moment of shared celestial awe.

Eclipse watchers in southwestern Ontario were the first on Canadian soil to experience the eclipse, before the path of totality moved into Quebec and Atlantic Canada, exiting Newfoundland about 30 minutes later.

Temperatures dipped, animals quieted, and rapturous crowds watched as the sun’s corona came into view behind the black disc of the moon.

Crowds in Kingston, Ont., which fell under its first total solar eclipse in almost 700 years, cheered and howled as totality moved in. Volunteers hastily told people to put their eclipse glasses back on as the sun reappeared behind the moon, soaking the Earth in its light.

In Gander, N.L., Cathy Young said she was thrilled to be part of a “once in a lifetime” event.

“It just cleared up, just as it started,” she said of the clouds that had loomed overhead earlier in the day.

This celestial dance, in which the moon, the sun and the Earth align, is possible thanks to some miraculous stage setting. The moon is about 400 times smaller than the sun, but it’s also about 400 times closer to the Earth ““ making both appear to be the same size in the sky.

Astronaut David Saint-Jacques said it’s one of the rare times we have a “direct connection with what’s going on in space.”

“It’s a very direct reminder of the reality of the cosmic ballet, if you want, that’s constantly going on. I think that’s the magic of it ““ it’s the connection with the cosmos,” said Saint-Jacques, who was part of a 204-day mission to the International Space Station starting in 2018, the longest Canadian mission to date.

Astronomy educator Julie Bolduc-Duval said the eclipse offered people the chance to set aside divisions for a moment together under the shadow of the moon.

“It really makes you realize where you are in the universe,” said Bolduc-Duval, director of Discover the Universe, offered in part by Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto.

While the next total solar eclipse in Canada is expected to pass through western provinces in 20 years, the phenomenon only happens in any given location roughly once every 360 years by some estimates.

One in six people live in Canada’s path of totality for Monday’s eclipse, or about 6.1 million people based on 2021 census data, said Statistics Canada, noting the number is likely higher given rapid population growth.

Total solar eclipses have been central to some major scientific breakthroughs.

Helium was detected for the first time during an 1868 eclipse, and observations made during one in 1919 helped establish broad support for Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

– with files from Mickey Djuric in Kingston, Ont., Morgan Lowrie in Montreal, Hina Alam in Fredericton and Sarah Smellie in Gander, N.L.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 8, 2024.

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