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People across the Maritimes take time to observe historic eclipse

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Chris Hadfield is best known as an astronaut, but despite his adventures outside the Earth’s lower atmosphere, he’d never seen a full solar eclipse until Monday.

“When I was a kid growing up on the farm, we had a partial eclipse and I was more excited than anyone in the family,” Hadfield told CTV News Atlantic. “I got a piece of paper and I punched some holes in it and with the sun coming down through the paper, I could watch that partial eclipse happen.

“Never in all that time since then have the stars aligned for me so I could see an eclipse until today.”

Hadfield visited Florenceville-Bristol, N.B., on Monday to see the path of totality of the solar eclipse. He was one of thousands of people across the Maritimes who observed the celestial event, which won’t repeat in the region until 2079.

A solar telescope balloon was also launched from the town to capture images of the spectacle from high above.

“It’s amazing. It’s almost like a religious experience to see something otherworldly like that happen,” said one observer.

Solar eclipse totality over Florenceville-Bristol, N.B., on April 8, 2024. (Nick Moore/CTV)

Thousands of people flocked to Fredericton, N.B., situated in the path of totality, to cap off Eclipsefest in the city. The Garrison District was packed with onlookers and vendors providing information on the once-in-a-lifetime moment.

A group of friends eagerly awaits the total solar eclipse at EclispeFest Fredericton on April 8, 2024.

In Miramichi, excitement started early. About three hours before the eclipse made an appearance, cars with license plates from all over filled the tarmac at the local airport.

“I might just cry when totality comes. I’m so excited about the whole thing,” said Shelley Williamson, who was visiting from Nova Scotia.

It wasn’t just Maritimers who made the trip. Some came to New Brunswick from the United States and the United Kingdom. One couple from Ireland even based their entire vacation around the event.

“We were going to go to San Diego and maybe just follow the path of totality and see which would be the best,” said Betty Lanigan. “And when we followed the path and realized it was going to come up through New Brunswick it was a no brainer, we had to come here.”

People gather in Miramichi, N.B., to watch the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024.

Ahead of the event, organizers doubled the vehicle capacity, allowing 3,000 cars into the space.

“A city the size of Miramichi that has a population of 18,000 people, when we’re able to put 10,000 to 12,000 people in one space, it’s a pretty significant event,” said economic development officer Paul McGraw.

Traffic was heavy in many parts of Prince Edward Island as thousands of observers moved around to catch a good view of the eclipse.

Islanders watch the total solar eclipse in Summerside, P.E.I., on April 8, 2024.

Most of Nova Scotia may have been outside the full path of totality, but that didn’t stop residents from seeing the moon partially obscure the sun. In Halifax, people filled the field at Saint Mary’s University to witness the eclipse, enjoying an extra-special view thanks to high-powered telescopes from the astronomy department.

Participants use a telescope to view the solar eclipse at Saint Mary's University in Halifax. (Paul Hollingsworth/CTV Atlantic)

Meat Cove, in the northern tip of Cape Breton, was the one spot in Nova Scotia that landed in the path of totality, which attracted several eclipse-watchers Monday afternoon.

Meat Cove, N.S., was the only place in the province that was in the path of totality of the eclipse on April 8, 2024.

Hadfield said the eclipse provides an opportunity to reflect on humanity’s place in the universe and our shared experiences and achievements.

“It’s one of those rare days where literally millions of people stop and look at up,” he said. “We spend a lot of time looking at our shoes and getting wrapped up in human misbehaviour; meanwhile there’s an amazing infinite nature of stuff around us. Today’s a day that’s very unifying.

“We’re at an amazing moment in history.”

The total solar eclipse over Florenceville-Bristol, N.B., on April 8, 2024. (Nick Moore/CTV)

Check out a full photo gallery of the eclipse here.

- With files from CTV Atlantic's Avery MacRae, Jack Morse, Nick Moore, Alana Pickrell, and Paul Hollingsworth

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