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Staying in Toronto for the solar eclipse? Here’s how to make the most of it

Thousands of people are flocking east or south next week to catch a glimpse of the rare total eclipse — something experts have called a once-in-a-lifetime event

But if you can’t leave the Greater Toronto Area on Monday, there’s still plenty of ways to make the most out of the experience.

While Toronto isn’t quite in the narrow path of totality, the city is expected to to see partial totality at over 90 per cent, says Hanno Rein, an astrophysics professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough, says. A partial eclipse means you should see the moon cover parts of the sun throughout the afternoon, which will cast unique shadows on the ground and potentially even impact local weather and animal behaviour, he said.

Monday’s weather is forecast to be a mix of sun and clouds, which could impact how much of the eclipse is visible.

Still, said Rein: “This will be an event that will be hard to miss.

“It’s very easy to get involved. All you need to do is go outside and see what’s happening.”

Here’s what you need to know to make the most of the experience in Toronto.

WATCH | What makes a total eclipse special:

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How to safely view the eclipse

Elaina Hyde, an astronomy professor and director of the Allan I Carswell Observatory at York University, says she encourages everyone to watch the eclipse in whatever capacity they can — as long as they do it safely.

“It is never safe to look at the sun, especially during an eclipse,” she said.

If you don’t have certified solar eclipse glasses, there are alternative ways to view the eclipse — some of which you can make yourself. All you need is something that can create shadows with a hole through it, like a pasta strainer or a piece of paper, said Hyde.

“You catch that shadow on the ground and the hole will create a small image of the sun that you can look at,” she said.

Libraries and other community organizations across the city are offering programming to show people how to do that.

Victoria Gee, a researcher programmer at the Ontario Science Centre, said the centre is running a slew of programs this weekend to help people learn more about the science behind solar eclipses. These include workshops on how to use UV-sensitive materials like beads and pipe cleaners to indirectly view the eclipse and other experiments people can conduct at home.

“They can come to us, but we’re also encouraging folks to, you know, make it special wherever they are,” said Gee.

Where to enjoy the eclipse

Local attractions like the Toronto Zoo are doling out solar eclipse glasses and putting a spin on their normal services.

The zoo is inviting guests to come a day before and after the eclipse, as well as the day of, to record changes in animal behaviour and help researchers find out more of the phenomenon’s impact on animals.

“Eclipses like this one are rare enough that there isn’t a ton of information around animal behaviour,” said Kyle Banton-Jones, the supervisor of behavioural husbandry at the Toronto Zoo.

“We’re really excited to be able to invite guests to, you know, fill out their observations and provide us with some really exciting citizen science.”

Many solar eclipse viewing events are sold out throughout the GTA. But those looking for a view can still book a visit to the CN Tower, where staff will also provide eclipse glasses and host an expert lecture. The tower will also put on a special light show in honour of the event.

“You have the unique perspective at the CN Tower where you can both look up at the eclipse but then also watch the city go dark below you,” said Shawn Whalen, the marketing manager at CN Tower. 

“We’re expecting it’s going to be a very busy day.”

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