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Historic solar eclipse brings breathtaking views across eastern Ontario

Thousands of people gathered as a solar eclipse moved across eastern Ontario Monday afternoon, achieving totality in several communities. 

More than 5,500 people were at Fort Henry in Kingston, Ont. — one of the communities in the path of totality — and many more gathered in places like Brockville and Cornwall to witness the total eclipse, despite a cloudy day. Events in Ottawa, where the eclipse was partial, still drew crowds.

Paul and Annemarie Switzer were waiting to experience their second total solar eclipse Fort Henry in Kingston, Ont., where the city had organized a viewing party for visitors.

“We’ve been to one other eclipse in Turkey in 1999,” Paul said. “It’s a fantastic experience – a total solar eclipse is like nothing else.”

Both brought their lawn chairs and solar eclipse glasses to take in the celestial event.

“It’s almost spiritual in a way,” Annemarie said.

The partial eclipse began the moment the edge of the moon touched the edge of the sun. Totality began when the edge of the moon covered all of the sun and totality ended when the edge of the moon exposed the sun. The partial eclipse ends the moment the edge of the moon leaves the edge of the sun.

While total solar eclipses occur about once every 18 months, you need to be directly along the eclipse’s specific path to see the full effect. A total solar eclipse hadn’t been seen in Canada since 1979.

Public schools across Ontario, including the Ottawa Carleton District School Board and the Ottawa Catholic School Board, were closed for the day.

Despite Ottawa not being in the path of totality, hundreds of families came to watch the event at the Canadian Museum of Nature and at various locations across the city. 

Dozens of elected officials, including Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, gathered on Parliament Hill to watch the eclipse move through the region. Parliamentary activities were briefly suspended to allow MPs and their staff members to enjoy the partial eclipse.

Justin Trudeau was spotted taking in the spectacle from the roof of the building that houses the Prime Minister’s Office.

People look towards the sun as darkness falls during the totality phase of a total solar eclipse, in Kingston, Ont., Monday, April 8, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Ottawa saw a partial solar eclipse, with about 98.87 per cent of the sun being covered by the moon. The event began at 2:11 p.m. and reached its peak at 3:25 p.m. The partial solar eclipse was no longer visible by 4:45 p.m.

Kingston, Brockville, Belleville, Cornwall and eastern Ontario towns along the Canada – U.S. border, are the places where the moon fully covered the sun for about two to three minutes, though cloud cover obscured the viewing experience for some. Still, conditions were almost perfect with higher than average seasonal temperatures and no precipitation.

The eclipse was total in Belleville from 3:21 to 3:23 p.m. (2 minutes and 4 seconds); Kingston from 3:22 to 3:25 p.m. (3 minutes and 4 seconds); in Brockville from 3:23 to 3:26 p.m. (2 minutes and 47 seconds); and in Cornwall from 3:24 to 3:27 p.m. (2 minutes and 16 seconds).

The path of totality passed through the southern half of the city of Montreal at 3:26:49 to 3:28:16 p.m. (1 minute and 27 seconds). Totality just missed Toronto, but was visible in Hamilton, St. Catharines and Niagara Falls.

The eclipse moved into Newfoundland, where it exited continental North America at 5:16 p.m. NST.

Cities along the U.S. – Canada border were anticipating hundreds of thousands of visitors. Kingston was expecting 500,000 visitors, while Niagara Falls went as far as to declare a state of emergency as it expected more than one million visitors.

Experts had been warning the public to make sure their solar eclipse glasses are safe to use and not counterfeit. This comes after receiving several reports saying glasses sold by some of Amazon’s private sellers do not provide the necessary protection.

A diamond ring effect is seen during the totality phase of a total solar eclipse, in Kingston, Ont., Monday, April 8, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang Safe sun glasses must comply with the ISO 12312-2 international standard. You can view the eclipse directly without proper eye protection only when the moon completely obscures the sun’s bright face – during the brief and spectacular period known as totality.

There are a variety of other ways to view the eclipse without glasses, including through a homemade eclipse projector.

The Canadian Space Agency warned that looking directly at the sun without appropriate protection during the total solar eclipse, “can lead to serious problems such as partial or complete loss of eyesight.”

Ottawa last saw a partial solar eclipse in the early morning of June 10, 2021, which covered about 80 per cent of the sun. 

The next total eclipse visible in Canada won’t be until Aug. 23, 2044 and will be visible in the Rockies.

With files from CTV News Ottawa’s Josh Pringle, Katie Griffin and The Canadian Press

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