Respecting your retinas: how to safely view a solar eclipse
Published Sunday, August 20, 2017 11:21PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, August 21, 2017 12:44PM EDT
In an upcoming celestial phenomenon, experts estimate that close to 60 per cent of the sun will be obscured by the moon for the partial solar eclipse, visible to thousands of Montrealers whose curiousity has been piqued.
However, eye doctors and other ocular experts are cautioning fledgling star gazers that although the sun looks covered, it does not mean that eyes are safe from permanent damage.
Spectators will have to take a number of medically-sanctioned precautions to protect their eyes on Monday afternoon.
Looking directly at an eclipse, much like looking directly at the sun, can be dangerous even if a short time has elapsed.
“Solar retinopathy is essentially burning the back of your eye, which is called the retina, and this can cause permanent sight damage, and vision damage, optometrist Dr. Claudine Courey told CTV Montreal.
Dr. Courey describes solar retinopathy in layman’s terms as a “sunburn on your eyes,” one that cannot be prevented by wearing dark sunglasses.
Alternatively, medical professionals suggest wearing special eclipse glasses that meet international guidelines and ISO standards.
Approved shades are clearly marked with an ISO 12312-2 label, and reduce sunlight to a comfortable level while guarding the eyes against UV and infrared rays.
Some universities and science museums will distribute glasses for free. Before the eclipse, star gazers should verify that the lenses are not scratched, punctured, or torn.
Testing the glasses using a bright light source, such as a flashlight, will help you to gauge whether the glasses provide adequate comfort.
However, after a number of phony eclipse glasses were reportedly being sold online, even NASA has issued a public safety warning about the counterfeit accessories—even instructing spectators how to create a do-it-yourself pinhole camera, which projects the eclipse for safe, at-home viewing.
NASA will also be livestreaming the eclipse to be viewed through a computer, without running the risk of damaging eyesight.
Officials also warn parents to keep a close eye on their children when watching the eclipse as a family. Children, curious as anyone, may remove or peek through the eclipse glasses if not supervised.
Welding goggles, also a feasible alternative, need to be purchased in a Shade 12 or high, according to NASA.
Any telescopes used for viewing must also be equipped with a solar filter at the end of the telescope, and not on the eyepiece.
Millions of people across North America will be able to see some phase of the eclipse from open spaces like public parks or fields, or at a number of viewing parties. Canadians may as well embrace the experience and ensure it’s both magnificent and safe—the next solar eclipse is expected to come around in April of 2024.