Protect Your Vision: Safeguarding Your Eyes During the Solar Eclipse

On April 8, 2024, a total eclipse will be visible from Southern Ontario to Newfoundland and Labrador, while the rest of Canada will witness a partial eclipse. In Ontario, the solar eclipse is expected to start shortly after 2 p.m. and last about two and a half hours. Many parts of Ontario will experience a total eclipse (the sun is 100% blocked by the moon) at about 3:20 pm. These times will vary by a few minutes depending on where in Ontario you are located.

Although observing a solar eclipse can be astonishing, it’s vital to safeguard your eyes from potential harm.

Understanding the Risks of Eye Damage While Viewing a Solar Eclipse

Looking at the sun during a partial solar eclipse carries risks of developing Solar Retinopathy. Solar Retinopathy is a condition that arises when the retina, a light-sensitive tissue inside our eyes that allows us to see, suffers burns from solar radiation.

This damage can cause permanent blind spots or vision distortions. Many people mistakenly believe that the reduced sunlight during an eclipse makes it safe to look directly at the sun, underestimating the risks involved. To protect against solar retinopathy, it’s essential to use proper eye protection.

Preparing for Safe Viewing

The sun has different rays which can be harmful to the eye including ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) radiation, as well as intense visible light. The only safe way to look directly at the sun is through specifically designed solar filters. These filters are used in both eclipse glasses and solar eclipse viewers, which you hold up to your eyes.  Here are some safety tips you need to know before viewing an eclipse:

  • Even if they are very dark, your regular sunglasses are not safe for viewing the solar eclipse.
  • While it might be tempting to pick up a cheap pair of solar eclipse glasses from unauthorized vendors online, it puts you at significant risk of buying unsafe or counterfeit glasses that won’t provide your eyes with adequate protection.
  • You shouldn’t be able to see anything through an authentic solar filter except the sun or equally bright light, such as the reflection of sunlight off a mirror.
  • If you can see ordinary lights through your eclipse glasses or handheld viewer, they aren’t safe and you are at a higher risk of damaging your eyes.
  • Check your solar filter or eclipse glasses for any damage before using them. Any damage impacts the device’s ability to protect you, so don’t use them if you see any scratches or dents.
  • Never look at the sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, or binoculars, even with eclipse glasses. By design, these lens-based devices intensify light rays, damaging the protective properties of eclipse glasses and your eyes.
  • Damage to your eyes from unsafely staring at an eclipse may not happen until 4 to 12 hours after staring at the eclipse.

If you notice any of these symptoms after viewing a solar eclipse, your eyes may have sustained damage:

  • Blurry vision
  • A blind spot in your central vision in one or both eyes
  • Distortion in which a straight line looks bent, or a door frame looks curvy
  • Changes in the way you see colour, known as “dyschromatopsia”
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Eye pain or grittiness

Visit your Optometrist immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.

Your First Stop for All your Eye Care needs

Solar Eclipse Resources

(Source: Canadian Space Agency)

Eclipse FAQs

Though the Sun has two to five eclipses yearly, each one can only be seen from certain parts of the Earth. On an average, it takes about 375 years for two total eclipses to be seen from the same spot. But sometimes, it can take even longer! 

The last total eclipse experienced in Ontario was February 26, 1979, in Northern Ontario. The next one will happen in Canada in 2044.

There are four types of solar eclipses: Total, Partial, Hybrid, and Annular. The type of eclipse visible depends on the alignment of the Moon with Earth and the Sun, as well as the Moon’s distance from Earth. A total eclipse occurs when the Moon completely covers the Sun’s bright surface.

You can view the eclipse from many locations throughout Ontario. Visit ‘Destination Ontario’s website to see where to experience the solar eclipse in order of view-time in Ontario. surface.

The eclipse is expected to start shortly after 2 p.m. in Ontario on April 8, 2024.

The eclipse will last about two and a half hours in Ontario.

Even when 99% of the Sun’s surface is obscured during the partial phases of an eclipse, the remaining crescent Sun emits enough intense light to cause irreversible damage to your retina potentially. It is particularly dangerous because there are no pain receptors in the retina, so you might not realize the damage until it’s too late to prevent vision loss. The burning of the retina can occur without any sensation, leading you to continue watching the eclipse unaware of the harm being done. Symptoms of eye damage might not manifest until several hours after exposure, making it crucial to avoid direct viewing of the eclipse to safeguard your vision.

You wouldn’t know if the sun’s intense light is burning your retina because the retina doesn’t have any nerves to make you feel the burn.

The safest way is to use eclipse glasses or solar eclipse viewers.

Sunglasses, regardless of how dark they appear, or how many pairs of them you wear, will not reach this level of protection and therefore are NOT safe for viewing the sun or the partial eclipse directly. 

Polarized glasses reduce light glare but are not safe enough to protect you from damaging your retina during a solar eclipse. On the other hand, special-purpose solar filters are at least 1,000 times darker than ordinary sunglasses.

It’s risky to buy eclipse glasses from unauthorized online vendors. Anyone can claim that they are certified.

If you can see ordinary lights through the glasses, they’re not safe for viewing a solar eclipse.

No, it’s not safe to look at the sun through cameras, telescopes, or binoculars during an eclipse. There are specially-made filters for those lenses.

To protect your eyes and the lens of your camera or phone while capturing photographs or filming videos during a solar eclipse, use specialized filters. Do not use solar eclipse glasses with your camera lens.

Symptoms of eye damage include blurry vision, blind spots, distorted vision, color changes, increased light sensitivity, and eye pain. You should immediately visit your eye doctor to get it checked.

While solar filters and eclipse glasses effectively shield against the harmful sunlight, the infrared “heat” emitted by the Sun can still cause discomfort by warming the eyes. Even with appropriate filters,prolonged staring at the Sun can lead to overheating of the eye’s tissues and fluids, posing potential dangers. To mitigate this risk, it’s essential to take breaks and look away from the Sun regularly while using filters to allow your eyes to cool down.

Yes, but you need to have the specialized eclipse filter between your camera and the Sun. Do not use the eclipse glasses–they will not be enough to protect your smartphone, you will need a specialized filter.

Kids will need to wear eclipse glasses as well and at all times except during total eclipse. This is of utmost importance–children will need constant supervision if they are viewing the eclipse to ensure they do not remove their eclipse glasses and to ensure that they have proper coverage.

Keep your pets indoors.

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