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Cloud-busting technology: Saanich skywatchers treated to full solar eclipse

Centre of the Universe party streams eclipse as it cruises over eastern North America

Technology came in for the win at the Centre of the Universe in Saanich, where folks watched the April 8 solar eclipse – more than once.

“Today in Victoria we had a partial eclipse of the sun, the moon covered 28 per cent of the sun’s surface unfortunately the clouds covered 100 per cent of the sky. So we really didn’t see anything here in Victoria,” explained Dennis Crabtree, director emeritus of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Saanich.

Perched high above West Saanich Road, the observatory operates two research telescopes, nearby, the Centre of the Universe hosts regular star parties and skywatching education.

For the eclipse, that meant streaming clear eclipses as they passed over eastern North America and showing them in the planetarium.

Dennis Crabtree, director emeritus of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Saanich, explains the April 8 solar eclipse with a couple aptly coloured stuffies. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)

Using technology, the livestream followed the eclipse including clear skies in places such as Mexico and Arkansas.

“And we’ve seen totality where the moon passes right in front of the sun,” Crabtree said. “The path of totality is only 80 miles wide or so is it’s this little path that goes sweeping across the earth at about 1400 miles per hour and if you’re lucky enough to be on that path you have a chance of experiencing totality.”

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The moon is 400 times closer to the earth than the sun, and though the sun is 400 times bigger, they appear to be the same size in the sky, causing eclipses. They’re uncommon, occurring every 18 months or so.

While folks expected they wouldn’t see the real deal, they came calling on the experts at the Centre of the Universe.

“We had to close the hill. It was a zoo basically,” Crabtree said. “I was prepared for it to be clear, but expecting it to be cloudy.”

He has personally experienced two total eclipses with clear skies. “They’re amazing. It’s just luck, and being in the right place at the right time. But the weather will do what it does.”

Savannah Sinclair, 6, partakes in the colouring station at the Centre of the Universe, adjacent Dominion Astrophysical Observatory on Little Mountain in Saanich on April 8, 2024. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)

Star parties happen once a month at the Centre of the Universe, visit to learn more.

“We have lots of stuff going on even if it’s cloudy. We give a tour of the 100-year-old Plaskett telescope, we have a planetarium inside the Centre of the Universe, we give talks, we have all kinds of great displays.”

READ ALSO: Volunteers build flying telescope to see total eclipse above the clouds

Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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