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Hamilton, McMaster, and the April 8 Eclipse

Dr. Robert Cockcroft, Assistant Professor / Director, William J. McCallion Planetarium / Secretary, Canadian Astronomical Society (CASCA)

Hamilton and McMaster University are lucky to be positioned along the path of totality for the upcoming April 8th eclipse, and as such, both have been preparing for it for some time now. McMaster’s Provost has purchased 600 000 solar eclipse viewing glasses, enough for every Hamiltonian, so that you can use them to view the Sun while it is partially covered by the Moon leading up to, and after, totality. These free viewers are available while supplies last at the Hamilton and Haldimand library branches, the McMaster University libraries, and the Burlington libraries. They are also being distributed through participating school boards.

Why do total solar eclipses capture the imagination of so many people, whether or not you’re in science? I offer three answers that spring immediately to mind:

  1. Perspective: It's easy for us to forget or internalize the things that we know about our Solar System - that we're on a sphere orbiting around the Sun, along with all the other planets, and that our Moon orbits around us. You are reminded of this during an eclipse, you see it with your own eyes as the Moon rolls silently in front of the Sun! I can give another couple of examples that relate (the first from astronomy and the second using a non-astronomy example): I sometimes like to watch what we call sunrises and sunsets, and I remind myself it's not actually the Sun that is rising or setting, it's Earth that is rotating to give us a sense of movement of the things in the sky. Second example: If you've ever stood on top of a bridge and watched water rush under you - you can sometimes switch your perspective and think that you're on a boat and it's you rushing forward through the water.
  2. Rarity: For a total solar eclipse to come to you is such an infrequent event. The last time Hamilton got to see a total solar eclipse was 1925, and the next time will be 2144. We'll be talking about this for a long time afterwards (but if you're willing to travel anywhere on the globe, and become an eclipse chaser, you can see them much more frequently).
  3. Timelessness: Even with all of today's technology and the fast pace of modern life, we are still subject to what's happening in the sky - and an eclipse (it goes night-time dark in the middle of the day!) is an amazing way to be reminded about that.
McMaster is holding an eclipse viewing party on April 8th for all students, faculty, staff, alumni, and families, at the Ron Joyce Stadium. The event is free; however, you’ll need to register ahead of the event to attend. It’s anticipated that the stadium will hit capacity, so if you meet the criteria and wish to attend, try to sign up early. The eclipse itself will begin at 2:03 PM and end by 4:30 PM, with totality occurring for just over a minute and a half at 3:18 PM (times are approximate and will vary according to your exact location).

Ahead of the viewing party, McMaster is hosting a number of free eclipse-related talks — including a panel discussion focusing on eclipses and astronomy from Indigenous perspectives. That event will take place on campus on April 7th at 2:30 PM; for more information on that and to register, click here.

Try to avoid travel on eclipse day because for the 2017 eclipse the Google map’s traffic overlay showed the most congested traffic on eclipse day exactly followed the path of totality. Don’t get stuck on the roads if you don’t have to. If you’re in the path of totality (which you can check here), this eclipse is coming to you!

Be sure to (safely!) enjoy the upcoming eclipse – and find out more information here.
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