UPDATE: Close to 1,000 gather to watch eclipse in Kelowna

Rare astronomical event today as Kelowna residents are gathered to watch eclipse

Packing cardboard pinhole projectors, sun-blocking glasses and, above all else, high expectations for a rare celestial event, Kelowna residents headed to the Curling Club parking lot in droves on Monday.

The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada held a solar eclipse viewing party at the site and were overwhelmed by the amount of community enthusiasm.

The event wasn’t scheduled to begin until 9 a.m., but people started lining up at 8 a.m. and within 45 minutes the supply of 400 eclipse viewing glasses had been snapped up. Over the next two hours, the crowd ballooned to nearly 1,000 men, women and children excited to look through the solar-ready telescopes that had been set up by the society.

“People have been very impressed to see that moon go right across the sun,” said Jim Tisdale of the Royal Astronomical Society, as he helped eclipse-curious kids and adults use his telescope.

“We heard lots of ‘Awesome. Wow. Never seen anything like this before.’”

For astronomy buffs, he said, it’s music to their ears.

“We spend a lot of time ourselves with our own telescopes, but when we hear from other people that they really enjoy it, it’s great,” said Tisdale. “For us this is what astronomy is all about — the outreach.”

There were definitely a lot of people on site who had never previously experienced an eclipse. Many of them weren’t alive in 1979, which is the last time B.C. residents could see such a significant solar eclipse.

Jacob Bocskei, 10, said that he thought it was pretty cool.

Seeing a bite out of the sun looked a lot like something he’d seen in games he likes to play.

Maxine Wilson took all six of her grandchildren and their parents to the stargazing event.

“It’s a once in a lifetime event,” she said. “I wanted my family to see it.”

Some were disappointed when they realized that the sky wasn’t going to be completely darkened, despite 83 per cent coverage from the moon.

That was until they got their hands on a pair of eclipse viewing glasses, then the awe kicked in.

UPDATE: 10:12 a.m.

Close to 1,000 people are gathered at the Kelowna Curling Club to try and get a glimpse of a rare astronomical event, an eclipse of the sun.

Jim Tisdale of the Royal Astronomical Society said they brought in some 400 pairs of special glasses needed to watch the eclipse without damaging your eyes and all of them were snapped up within 45 minutes this morning.

People began lining up at the curling club by 8 a.m. this morning.

The Capital News has a reporter and video crew on the scene. Watch our web site and Facebook page for updates, interviews and video.

Our reporter spoke with Andrew Bennett of the Royal Astronomical Society as well:

ORIGINAL:

The rare astronomical event that so many have been waiting for will get underway in just a few hours.

The sky will darken today as the moon moves between the sun and the earth for an eclipse of the sun, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in this part of the world since 1979.

If you want to observe it, however, you should have the right equipment on hand because solar eclipses are as dangerous as they are engaging.

“We want people to have a moment of pleasure, not a lifetime of regret,” said Ken Tapping, an astronomer with the National Research Council of Canada’s Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in the Okanagan.

“The trouble is that eclipses make the sun interesting. If you’re walking around, your eyeballs are moving all the time. But you can overcome this common sense when the sun becomes interesting, so people will stare at the sun.”

A Kelowna optometrist is concerned that he’s going to see the negative side effects of just that phenomenon.

Dr. Paul Clark says if solar filter eyewear is not used “absolutely perfectly” or if there is a manufacturing defect in solar filter glasses, it could result in permanent vision loss.

“Just like sunburn to the skin, the effects are not felt or noticed immediately,” said Clark.

“I have a great fear that I will have patients in my office on Tuesday, Aug. 22, who woke up with hazy, blurry vision that I cannot fix.

“There is absolutely no safe way to watch the eclipse other than on television.”

The eclipse on Aug. 21 is a total eclipse along a band about 100 kilometres wide that crosses the entire United States from the southeast to Oregon in the northwest, said Tapping.

Around 9:13 a.m., observers using the right equipment will see a little notch on the sun as the moon moves in front of it. By 10:25 a.m., close to 90 per cent of the sun will be covered by the moon. It will all be over at 11:42 a.m.

It’s as close to a total eclipse, where the entire sun is covered, that Canadians have seen since 1979. Only people in Oregon will see 100 per cent coverage of the sun.

In Kelowna the Okanagan Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada is hosting a free public viewing event from 9 a.m. until noon at the Kelowna Curling Club. Approved solar eclipse glasses will be available for use, along with special solar eclipse telescopes.