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  • Writer's pictureTrevor Greenway

Don’t be blinded by the light

Wakefield optometrist Dr. Barbara Kurtz knows her patients are smarter than Donald Trump, but she still worries that people may damage their eyes during the upcoming total solar eclipse on April 8.


“Well, we know we should never look up at the sun, but this event is going to attract people to want to look up, so that's why we say it's potentially dangerous, unless you're wearing the proper eclipse glasses," Kurtz told the Low Down. “It can be really dangerous” – even for presidents.


Former president Donald Trump made headlines in 2017 after he directly stared at the sun during a solar eclipse without protective glasses. 


On April 8, a total eclipse will darken Quebec skies along the St. Lawrence Valley and across southern Quebec, including most of Montreal. The eclipse’s path of totality can be seen in the skies of Montérégie, the Eastern Townships, Centre-du-Québec, the Beauce and the Magdalen Islands.


But here in Western Quebec, just outside the path of totality, viewers will only be able to see partial phases of the eclipse, not witness the moon completely blocking the sun. 

Despite not seeing the full eclipse here, Kurtz still recommended that residents protect themselves and said the damage could be permanent.


“So the part of the eye that light will focus on is called the retina, and if you stare up at the sun, you can damage the cells there, and they remain damaged permanently,” added Kurtz. There's no treatment, so you basically have to live with a big blind spot in your vision.”


Eclipse viewers are encouraged to use eclipse glasses that comply with the ISO 12312-2 safety standard, which blocks out harmful ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) radiation, as well as intense visible light. 


Réseau BIBLIO de l'Outaouais has sent 75 pairs of solar glasses to the Wakefield, Masham and Lac-des-Loups libraries for rental – all of which have since been rented out. 


School board concerned, switches PD Day

In the Hills, the Western Quebec School Board (WQSB) was so concerned with children’s safety that it switched a PD day to coincide with the eclipse so that students wouldn’t be exposed to the sun while travelling home from school. 


“Complicating the situation is the fact that the eclipse will take place in our region between 2:10 p.m. to 4:35 p.m. This is the period of time our students will be boarding buses, travelling home by bus, being picked up by parents or walking home,” wrote WQSB director-general George Singfield in a recent letter to parents.

 

He explained in the letter that former PD days Tuesday, April 2, and Friday, April 5, will now be regular school days to make up for the loss of an "eclipse day" on April 8, adding: “This ensures students are not at risk during the eclipse and avoids any loss of class time and learning for our students.”


According to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Canadians will have to wait 20 years for the next total eclipse and that will be mainly visible in the Northwest Territories and Alberta. In Quebec, the CSA says it won't be visible again until 2106, however, partial solar eclipses, as well as total and partial lunar eclipses, can be viewed regularly in Canada. 

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