How to Not Fry Your Eyeballs During Monday’s Eclipse

Solar viewing glasses have been sold out of official carriers for weeks—so of course people are cashing in online. Beware.

August 18, 2017

By Jessica Barrett

Vancouver may not be on the “path to totality,” but Monday’s solar eclipse still promises to put on a pretty good show. We on the West Coast have the best vantage point in all of Canada, with the moon’s transit set to block out 86 percent of the sun on Monday morning  (although Victoria gets the better view, with 90 percent coverage).

Now, I’m told that seeing a total eclipse is a whole other ball game than the partial one we’ll be privy to—hence the miles long traffic jams clogging up highways south of the border as people flock to Oregon, the northernmost site of the total eclipse. I’m not one for traffic jams, but I still think an eclipse is a pretty cool thing—especially considering Vancouver won’t get another shot at witnessing this kind of celestial show for another 600 years.

The question is: how do you see it without frying your eyeballs? The darkened sky on Monday morning might make it seem safe to stare into the sun, but doing so for even a short time can cause permanent damage to your retinas, and no, regular shades won’t cut it. The solution is to get special viewing glasses—that have been sold out all over town for weeks. Crumb.

Just a few of the offerings by enterprising individuals hoping to cash in on Monday’s eclipse. But there’s no guarantee these shades won’t be shady.

Your best bet around this unfortunate reaility is to head down to one of the official viewing events being held around town—Science World and the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre are both hosting free community viewing parties Monday morning, complete with solar viewers while supplies last. And the UBC Astronomy Club promises to keep your peepers safe with goggles available to all who show up to its event at Robson Square, while UBC’s department of physics and astronomy is hosting an on-campus soiree at the Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre complete with viewers and scopes.

For those who want to indulge their agoraphobia—and roll the dice with their eyeballs—Craigslist has a selection of solar viewers for sale, at substantial markups. While the special glasses, again, now sold out, retailed for as little as $1.50 at places like Best Buy, enterprising Vancouverites are hawking them for as much as $75 on the beloved online classified site (gotta love this city’s entrepreneurial spirit). But even if you do decide getting a glimpse of this astronomical event is worth the hefty price tag, beware. Counterfeit glasses have been popping up all over the place—as one Vancouver real estate agent learned the hard way. Make sure to protect yourself by inspecting any glasses you buy online (find a handy guide here). Or better yet: make a pinhole projector to watch a (somewhat less satisfying, but ultimately safer) projection of the eclipse. Happy viewing!

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