The Hamilton Spectator

Eclipse 101: Here comes the (obscured) sun

Hamilton, Niagara, Haldimand and Norfolk can expect a surge of visitors looking to glimpse the rare sight


The total solar eclipse of 2024 is nearly here and there is no better time to make plans to see the celestial phenomenon than now.

Most Hamilton-area residents are lucky to be in the path of totality for the April 8 event — during which the sun will be fully obscured by the moon — meaning that most locals will be able to view the occultatio­n at its peak from the safety of their own backyards. However, millions of Ontarians (from Toronto, Mississaug­a, Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph and beyond) live outside of totality.

Though eclipses are quite common all over the world and there have been plenty of partial eclipses seen over the skies of southern Ontario in recent years, total solar eclipses are an extremely rare localized phenomenon, happening at specific locations only once in many generation­s. We won’t experience another in the Hamilton area for 120 years.

April’s eclipse is significan­t because of the large number of people that live in — and close to — the path of totality that cuts through Mexico, the U.S., then southern Ontario, through Quebec, then the northeaste­rn U.S., and finally the Atlantic provinces. NASA estimates 44 million people live in the path and many tens of millions live within driving distance.

Hamilton, Niagara Region, Haldimand and Norfolk can expect a surge of visitors looking to glimpse the rare sight.

Best and worst places to view the eclipse

Though Hamilton and Burlington are totality lucky, when it comes to the eclipse not all neighbourh­oods are equal. Some will see only moments of the full eclipse, others will get minutes of eerie midday darkness.

If you are in downtown Waterdown or in Burlington just north of Highway 403 and east of the 407, you will get about 45 seconds of totality. West Hamilton and downtown will get over a minute and 30 seconds of darkness. Downtown Stoney Creek, Mount Hope and the east Mountain will see more than two minutes.

Folks lucky enough to have a place to stay along the eastern Lake Erie shoreline or in Niagara Falls will experience over three minutes of the total solar eclipse.

For more localized informatio­n about the precise timing of the eclipse, go to eclipse202­ or download the free Totality app, by Big Kid Science, for Android or iPhones.

Watching safely

Don’t expect to be able to show up at an event and get handed a pair of protective glasses or to be able to easily buy a pair in the days before the eclipse.

Most events have been taking registrati­ons for weeks and eager stargazers have been purchasing glasses for the same amount of time or longer.

Buy solar glasses now or get free ones from a library branch if they are still available.

ISO certified glasses (ISO 12312-2) are available through outlets such as Amazon, but the American Astronomic­al Society warns that in the days leading up to the 2017 eclipse, the internet was flooded with “counterfei­t” glasses.

Here’s how and where to watch

On April 8 at about 2 p.m. depending on where you are, the moon will start passing in front of the sun and at about 3:18 p.m. (plus a few seconds in the Hamilton centre) is when totality happens.

If the weather works in our favour, and with the help of eclipse glasses, watching the celestial event unfold for anyone in the path of totality will be as simple as looking up.

McMaster University planetariu­m director Robert Cockcroft said residents should view the eclipse from “wherever you happen to be … the eclipse is coming to you.”

Similarly, representa­tives from the city, Mac and beyond have worked hard to share the message that driving around on eclipse day is not ideal. Folks from outside the city will be converging on the area.

For people coming from out of town, locals outside of the path of totality, and residents who really want to be in a crowd, there are free viewing events across the region.

■Tourism Hamilton is hosting a free event at Tim Hortons Field. Registrati­on is required. Guests will be given glasses.

■Hamilton’s Royal Astronomic­al Society of Canada is hosting a viewing party at Lime Ridge Mall, however, the event “sold out within a week,” they said on Facebook.

■McMaster is hosting a viewing event at Ron Joyce Stadium: Registrati­on is open only to students, staff, alumni and families.

■Hamilton has listed four parks — Bayfront, Pier 4, Confederat­ion and T.B. McQuesten — as designated eclipse-watching sites where a limited number of free glasses will be available. Find out more informatio­n on tourismham­ They also mention a number of conservati­on areas for sky watching, however, Christie Lake Conservati­on Area is near the northernmo­st point of totality so the total eclipse there will be very brief.

■ The Royal Botanical Gardens is hosting a viewing event at the Arboretum. Registrati­on at events/ is required.

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