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Why a 99 per cent eclipse in Toronto won’t be as impressive as the total eclipse in Niagara

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Torontonians eager to catch a glimpse of the upcoming total solar eclipse would be wise to hit the road and head out of town next Monday.

While the moon will cover up 99.9 per cent of the sun in parts of Toronto on April 8, the city is not in the path of totality like other municipalities outside the GTA.

“This is a very important difference for solar eclipses,” said Elaina Hyde, the director of the Allan I Carswell Observatory at York University and a professor with the school’s Natural Sciences department.

“If you are in totality, you’re in the area where the sky will get dark. This is the very spectacular show. You get the big temperature shift. Animal behavior can change.”

She said in other areas, a partial eclipse will be visible but spectators will miss out on many exciting aspects of the celestial event.

“You’re not going to see the sky go dark. You’re not going to see the sun get blacked out. You’re not going to see the corona,” Hyde said.

“If you’re just standing around outside, you might not even notice anything’s happening.”

The good news is, for those who want the full experience, there are several cities in the path of totality that are a short drive from Toronto, including areas just west of the GTA, such as Hamilton and Niagara Region.

“It’s a narrow, narrow line travelling across North America and only in that specific region are you going to get some amount of totality,” Hyde said.

“Some cities will get only 30 seconds. Some cities like… Niagara Falls, they’re going to get over three-and-a-half minutes.”

Hamilton, Hyde said, will see one minute and fifty seconds of totality.

“When totality happens, it’s very noticeable,” she said.

Even in the event of cloudy skies, for spectators in areas of totality, there will still be something to see, Hyde said.

“In the worst case scenario, the sky is completely cloudy and overcast and gray with clouds. In that case, you’re just not going to see anything unless you’re in totality. You’ll see the sky get darker and it will become more like nighttime,” she added.

 

Toronto’s sky may have a ‘red tinge’

For those who can’t leave town on Monday, Hyde said “a very nice partial eclipse” could still be visible for those who use safe viewing techniques. As the sun will never be fully blocked out by the moon, at no point will people in the city be able to safely look directly at the eclipse without appropriate eyewear.

“If you’re viewing it safely… you’ll see the disc of the sun gradually become a crescent and that crescent will get thinner and thinner and thinner and then it will get bigger and bigger and bigger and become a circle again,” she said.

“Depending on what the atmosphere is doing, and again, the condition of the skies, you can sometimes get a little bit of reddening in your sky.”

For those who want to catch the full solar eclipse but avoid big crowds, Hyde said Brantford or Belleville could be good areas to check out.

For those who don’t mind a longer trek, she said Montreal will be a unique spot to watch the eclipse.

“Montreal is getting sort of cut almost in half by the eclipse path,” she said. “So part of Montreal will get the eclipse and part of them won’t.” 

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