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Are you Properly prepared for the eclipse?

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On Aug. 21, between approximately 11:40 a.m. and 2:15 p.m., people across North America will see the sun disappear behind the moon, turning daylight into twilight, causing the temperature to drop rapidly and revealing massive streams of light streaking through the sky around the silhouette of the moon. On that day, we will fall under the path of a total solar eclipse.
Weather permitting, much of Manitoba is expected to see a 70 percent eclipse as the ‘path of totality’ will only completely darken skies in an 113 kilometre strip all the way from Oregon to South Carolina. But, that doesn’t make the dangers associated with the viewing of this phenomenon any less.
Be Seeing You Vision Centre Optometrist Michele Marshall explains that the sun is always harmful to look at but the eclipse will make people want to stare at it.
“We might glance at the sun once and a while, but now we will have something so fantastic happening that people will want to watch it for longer periods of time,” she said. “That is the problem.
“Sometimes the damage is temporary and sometimes it’s permanent. You may not even know it’s happening until after, because there may not be any pain.
“They might notice a blind spot, blurriness or distortion to the vision,” Marshall continued. “Other symptoms could also be watery or sore eyes.”
Doctor’s Vision Optometrist Dawn Dunford has actually had experience with the damage that improperly viewing an eclipse can do.
“When I was working in New York City, I actually saw a patient who thought he was being smart and tried to look at the sun from the corner of his eye and it burned a complete image of the eclipse on the back of his eye,” she said.
“This was 10-15 years after the incident that I was seeing him. It is a permanent, long standing burn on the retina. For the rest of his life, every time he looked at something, he saw an eclipse shape off to the side in his vision.
“There’s nothing that can be done to correct this,” Dunford continued. “Once it is burned, it is burned. That’s the biggest problem.”
Because of the potential damage that this phenomenon can cause, the Manitoba Association of Optometrists has provided eclipse glasses that are Rainbow Symphony Eclipse Shades and meet the ISO international standard of protection.
“Sun glasses, regular glasses or transition lenses will not protect us from potential Solar Retinopathy,” said Marshall. “The only way to really protect ourselves is to use these special ISO certified viewing shades.”
“You can’t see anything through them until you look at the sun,” added Dunford. “They are super dark. Even welders glasses are not sufficient.”
In addition to wearing the glasses, those wanting to use binoculars, a camera or a telescope for a closer view should take further precautions.
“Even if they are wearing the shades while doing so, this could also be damaging,” said Marshall. “There are filters you can buy to put directly onto the equipment to make this safe.”
Both doctors noted that if you have children who won’t or are too young to follow instructions that it is best they are kept indoors.
“I worry the most about the children,” said Marshall. “They aren’t going to know and they are going to want to watch it.
“We really want everyone to enjoy it but to do so safely.”
It’s important when using the glasses to make sure you put them on before looking toward the sun and take them off only after you have looked away. It is also best to inspect your glasses for scratches or damages that might have impacted their integrity.
Eclipse viewing glasses are available at no cost to take home in limited quantities from local vision centres. Alternatively, if you are just wanting to take a glimpse, viewing glasses can be loaned out for short periods of time from these optometry offices or from here at the Star and Times.
If you are looking at obtaining a pair online, use caution and purchase only from reputable sources as a number of distributors have been reported for issuing sub-par eyewear that will not protect and will put your eyes at risk.