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A moment in time

Solar eclipse connected people through science

Campus and Community

By Pamela Gill

For a few brief minutes on Monday, April 8, thousands of people across the province of Newfoundland and Labrador stood hushed as an eerie darkness washed over the land.

At the apex of the solar eclipse, as the moon blocked out 100 per cent or most of the sun’s light, all faces turned upward to take in the spectacle through protective glasses.

Children, parents, grandparents, families and friends all united in the dusky glow of science.

“It was an amazing moment of connection,” said Jennifer Buxton, engagement co-ordinator for the Grenfell Office of Engagement. “To see everyone smiling in wonder, no one watching a screen, all voices quiet, coming together to witness a scientific phenomenon that won’t happen again like this in Newfoundland and Labrador for another 50 years.”

A woman uses protective glasses to protect her phone while taking a photo of the eclipse.
A woman uses protective glasses to protect her phone while taking a photo of the eclipse.
Photo: Lori Lee Pike

Solar eclipse glasses were provided free of charge by faculty and student volunteers with Grenfell’s chapter of Let’s Talk Science.

Simultaneously, people living in the Port-aux-Basques area, where the total solar eclipse could be clearly seen, gathered at the Public Library — a Memorial University Community Hub — for face painting, activities for kids, live music and solar eclipse treats, and a talk by Dr. Svetlana Barkanova, a professor of physics at Grenfell Campus.

A group of people in a parking lot under a darkened sky and with a telescope.
The sky became visibly darker during the event.
Photo: Lori Lee Pike

“What a day,” she said. “Our team at Memorial worked really hard to prepare for multiple community viewing parties, but there was no way for us to predict if we would actually see anything. And we did! The clouds parted just in time for us to see all the glory of this extraordinary cosmic event, and it was especially rewarding for me to see the young kids looking at the sky in awe. Physics is fun, and I hope people saw the wonders of physics for themselves on April 8!”

A solar eclipse showing a red crescent surrounded by black in the sky.
An image of the solar eclipse, captured in Port-aux-Basques, N.L.
Photo: Dr. Aleksandrs Aleksejevs/Grenfell Campus Department of Physics

Indeed, residents all over the province paused for those two hours, whether gathered at other Memorial University hubs in Old Perlican, Cartwright and St. Alban’s, or at community viewings organized by the College of the North Atlantic in Gander and the Geo Centre in St. John’s.

Still others could be found looking up from shorelines, fields and clearings all along the coastline of the province.

A woman wearing hat and mitts looks through a cardboard box with a hole and tinfoil attached.
Dr. Christine Campbell, who leads the Let’s Talk Science chapter at Grenfell, tries out a pinhole camera.
Photo: Lori Lee Pike

“This was not my first total solar eclipse, but it felt like I saw it for the first time as well, through the children’s eyes,” said Dr. Barkanova. “Many thanks to our sponsors, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada and Cenovus Energy, for providing eclipse glasses so everyone could enjoy this rare cosmic show safely. We all have the same goal: to inspire youth in our province, especially youth from equity-deserving groups, to consider careers in science, engineering and technology.”

For more information about the solar eclipse event, visit here.

For more information about Let’s Talk Science, visit here.

For more information about the Grenfell Observatory, visit here.

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