On Monday, April 8, for viewers in a narrow path from Mexico through the central United States and across eastern Canada, the moon will appear to completely cover the sun, resulting in a total solar eclipse. 

Here in Manitoba, our view will be of a partial eclipse. In Winnipeg specifically, the eclipse will begin at 12:54 p.m., with maximum eclipse at 2:01 p.m., and will end at 3:08 p.m.

This fleeting event can have long term consequences for your vision. Dr. Jennifer Rahman is an eye physician and surgeon, the Medical Director of GEM Clinic and President of the Eye Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba.

She is reaching out with her advice and guidance from the Canadian Ophthalmological Society to help make sure anyone who wants to view the eclipse does so safely. 

A partial eclipse like we’ll be experiencing is more dangerous, because there is not any time that it is safe to view without eclipse viewers,” she said, and only those that comply with the ISO 12312 – 2 Standard should be used. Unfortunately with demand high, there are many counterfeit or untested and unsafe viewers being sold online.

Exposure can result in permanent vision loss. Even as little as a few seconds glancing at the sun can cause solar retinopathy, a photochemical injury to the macular tissue (central retina). Symptoms include blurry vision, vision loss in the centre of vision and eye pain.

Sadly, there is no known treatment for solar retinopathy, and while vision may improve over time, if there are no improvements after six months, the injury is likely permanent. 

Dr. Rahman advises particular caution with children, as their eyes are even more vulnerable to damage. Parents and caregivers should be vigilant to ensure they are wearing viewers properly and following instructions to leave them on throughout the eclipse event. 

She said it is also important to know that viewing the eclipse through a lens, such as a camera or telescope, with or without eclipse viewers is also unsafe, as concentrated solar rays will burn through and can cause serious eye injury.

The Manitoba Museum has an eclipse-viewing resource, including directions on how to make indirect viewing devices if you don’t have approved eclipse glasses.