For many Western University students, today's partial solar eclipse was a once in a lifetime opportunity — it's the most complete solar eclipse to pass over London since 1994. 

"I’ve always wanted to see it. I feel like it’s something that you should see at least once in a lifetime because it doesn't happen too often," said Esther Ndombele, a fourth-year King's University College psychology student.

Ndombele arrived on campus early for the event. She and her friends managed to snag a free pair of eclipse glasses that were being handed out by volunteers.

The free event drew thousands of spectators to University College Hill, where the physics and astronomy department and London Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada gave out eclipse glasses and set up telescopes. Unfortunately, due to the higher than expected turnout of students and London community members, the supply of around 4,000 eclipse glasses ran out quickly.

Breanna Tauschek, fourth-year arts and humanities student, arrived from out of town and wasn't able to make it in time to get her own pair of eclipse glasses.

"It's disappointing, but I understand that there are only so many glasses you can get," said Tauschek. "You can't really anticipate how many people are going to come, so it's not really anybody's fault."

Despite running out of glasses, many attendees were happy to share and a handful of members of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada borrowed telescopes from Cronyn Observatory to give people a peek at the crescent sun. A crescent sun was seen at the maximum point of the solar eclipse at around 2:30 p.m. as 75 per cent of it was covered by the moon.

Tauschek added that she would look through the telescopes and attend some of the programming at the Cronyn Observatory later today.  

Many of Western's organizers were thrilled with the large turnout. Pauline Barmby, associate professor of physics and astronomy and acting dean of the Faculty of Science, said that the natural phenomenon had received a lot of local publicity, which was probably why the viewing party drew such a large crowd.

“We think that it is something that people would be very interested in and obviously we were right," said Barmby. "We have a big open space and lots of places where people can look from so it seemed like a natural thing to do.”

Western staff estimated campus would attract as many as 10,000 people on campus throughout the day. Since London could only see a partial eclipse of the sun, Barmby stressed wearing proper eye protection and not to look directly at it. With only a few seconds of direct exposure to the sun, ultraviolet radiation can burn retinas in the eyes and lead to permanent damage. 

The next time London will welcome another solar eclipse will be on April 8, 2024 when the sun will be 97 per cent eclipsed.

The entire solar eclipse lasted approximately three hours from around 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. 

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Grace is a news editor for volume 111 at the Gazette. She is a fourth-year neuroscience student minoring in French studies. If you want to reach Grace, email her at grace@westerngazette.ca

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