Shot by holding an iPhone up to a telescope, with the moon still taking a bite out of the sun, with sunspots clearly in view.                                Steve Kidd/Western News

Shot by holding an iPhone up to a telescope, with the moon still taking a bite out of the sun, with sunspots clearly in view. Steve Kidd/Western News

Solar eclipse draws huge crowd to Penticton event

Several hundred gathered at Okanagan College to watch the special event

Jamie Ford holds protective glasses to her eyes as she watches the moon cover the sun.(Steve Kidd/Western News)

We may know far more about eclipses than we did a couple of thousand years ago, but they have lost none of their ability to fascinate viewers.

An estimated 800 people turned out to the Penticton campus of Okanagan College for a viewing event sponsored the Okanagan Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society, who were on hand with viewing glasses and a telescope.

“If you look up in the sky at night, you have questions, what is that, why is that. And when they see it, especially through a scope, it’s astounding,” said Al Fishler, who set up the scope and helped people view the eclipse. “That’s what happened to me, that is how I got started, looking through binoculars.”

It was a long morning of standing at the telescope, but Fishler said it was fun helping people out and answering their questions. Many of his fellow club members went south to Oregon, where they could see the total eclipse.

In Penticton, the moon covered about 80 per cent of the sun, but that was enough for enthusiasts like Jamie Ford.

“It’s awesome. For me, it’s probably a once in a lifetime thing, I don’t think I am ever going to see a total one,” said Ford, who confessed to a lifelong interest in the night sky.

“We’ve lived in places that have no lights, little tiny towns. You can lay on your back and stare at the sky all night,” said Ford. “I still have to see a comet, that’s about it.”

Lynn Murray was also excited about the experience.

“I never imagined it was going to be so dramatic. It’s the greatest vision,” said Murray. After Fishler’s supply of free viewing glasses ran out, Murray roamed through the crowd, letting people borrow hers.

“The glasses make everything amazing to see. I just felt so lucky to have glasses myself and for anyone I saw that didn’t have glasses, I wanted them to share the experience.”