A local optometrist has a warning for those wanting to watch the solar eclipse on Monday.
“When viewing the upcoming partial eclipse it is important to use precautions and proper eye protection,” says Dr. Danielle Campbell with FYidoctors. “It is unsafe to directly view the sun at any time. Even a short viewing of the sun can lead to serious long-term eye damage.”
A full solar eclipse is set to occur over the continental United States stretching from Oregon across to South Carolina. This area, up to 115 kilometres wide, will experience darkness lasting up to two minutes and 40 seconds. In this path of total eclipse, it will be dark enough that you should be able to see the stars.
This is the first eclipse of this magnitude in North America since 1918. The rest of Canada and the United States will experience a partial eclipse. Here on Vancouver Island, nearly 87 per cent of the sun will be blocked as the moon passes directly in front of the sun at 10:19 a.m. The sun will be partially eclipsed for just under two and a half hours from 9:09 a.m. until 11:34 a.m.
Clark says those who are eager to catch a glimpse of the much-talked about eclipse should use a solar filter, such as eclipse glasses, which are designed specifically for viewing an eclipse.
“Prior to the eclipse, inspect your solar filters for any damage, or scratches,” Campbell says. “The eclipse glasses should only allow viewing of the sun or something comparably bright, such as the sun’s reflection, an arc-welder’s torch or a LED flashlight.
“When you are ready to view the eclipse, cover your eyes and put on your solar filters before looking up at the sun. If you wear glasses, the solar filters can be placed on top of your glasses,” Campbell adds. “These filters will allow for comfortable viewing of the sun and make the sky appear black in colour. When you are finished viewing the eclipse, turn away from the sun and remove your solar filters.”
Campbell warns that regular sunglasses, even dark ones, do not provide enough protection from the sun’s harmful rays. Never use photographic filters, sunglasses, exposed film, X-ray film, or CDs. These make the sun appear somewhat dimmer, but pass ultraviolet and infrared light, which could permanently damage your eyes, she says. Do not view the eclipse directly through binoculars or telescopes, even when wearing solar filters as these devices can optically amplify the intensity of the sun’s rays. With these devices special filters should be used as instructed by an astronomer.
Campbell says there are, however, other safe methods for viewing the eclipse.
She says one method is to cross your outstretched fingers of both hands in a criss cross pattern. Look at the shadows created by your hands on the ground. The spaces between the outstretched fingers will project a grid of images showing the sun as a crescent during the eclipse. A pinhole projector can also be created out of a cardboard, paper and aluminum foil. Another safe viewing option is to use number 14 welder’s glasses.
The next total eclipse visible in Canada will be on April 8, 2024 in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and PEI. This eclipse will also be partially visible here, so keep those solar filters on hand.