A total solar eclipse will be viewable from North America later this month for the first time in nearly 100 years, but that’s no reason to lose your eyesight when catching a glimpse.
While the moon passes in front of the sun on August 21, we here in Vancouver will only be able to see the eclipse with an 86% totality. That means the sun’s harsh rays will still be shining down on us the whole way through.
Common sense refresher: Staring directly into the sun is an easy way to make it the last thing you’ll ever see.
Luckily for would-be eclipse gazers, there are a few ways around the potentially harmful exposure, while still getting a view of the natural phenomenon—and no, we don’t mean wearing all the sunglasses you own at once, that would look ridiculous, and you could still get seriously injured.
NASA notes that glasses must comply with the ISO 12312-2 safety standard if you plan on staring directly at the eclipse. Beware of fake glasses.
There are also a few places around Vancouver that are offering viewing parties for the eclipse, with presentations, a live feed of the total eclipse, and eclipse glasses available for attendees. These parties will be taking place at Science World, the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, and at UBC.
Dr. Tej Dhaliwal, an optometrist at Image Optometry in South Vancouver, said in a message to Daily Hive that eclipses are extremely dangerous to view.
“Solar retinopathy is permanent vision loss, and it is possible after viewing an eclipse (as powerful as the one we’re about to experience) after mere seconds,” he said. “The damage doesn’t often show up immediately, it could occur within a few hours to several days after, but it is permanent.”
Though glasses can be worn to protect the eyes, Dr. Dhaliwal stressed that they have to be certified.
“If you absolutely must view the eclipse, you have to wear certified, approved, specific filtering lenses,” he said. “There are numerous ‘fake solar eclipse glasses’ out there, thus please confirm that yours meet the correct ISO standards and are from a reputable vendor.”
Another way to view the eclipse—if indirectly—is by making yourself a pinhole projector to view the shadow of the moon as it passes over the sun. All you’ll need is a few pieces of cardboard, and DIY instructions can be found here.
If you want to enjoy the eclipse in all its glory, a quick road trip down to Salem, Oregon (or any other places in the total eclipse zone) to enjoy two minutes of full totality.
However, Dr. Dhaliwal said that even if you are in the right area with the proper glasses, the risk is still very great.
“Facing a lifetime of vision loss for only a few moments of pleasure and glory… absolutely not worth it,” he said. “Ultimately there is only one real way to view the solar eclipse, and that is not viewing it at all.”
He recommends enjoying the eclipse through photos, videos, and in experiencing the darkness take over the skies during the middle of the day.
“Be smart and don’t risk a lifetime of vision loss over a few seconds of pleasure.”
Editor’s note: This article was updated on August 18 at 2:30 pm to include additional information from Dr. Tej Dhaliwal about the dangers of viewing solar eclipses.