SOURCE: University of Waterloo

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March 19, 2015 01:00 ET

Expert: Upcoming Solar Eclipse Poses High Vision Damage Risk

WATERLOO, ON--(Marketwired - March 19, 2015) - Many parts of the UK and Europe will witness a rare solar eclipse around rush hour this Friday morning. Authorities are issuing safety warnings for viewers, especially drivers.

The University of Waterloo's Dr. Ralph Chou, from the School of Optometry and Vision Science in the Faculty of Science, is willing to discuss eye damage risks and necessary protective measures.

He is also a member of the International Astronomical Union's advisory group on solar eclipses and eclipse education.

"It only takes a brief amount of time for the sun to damage the retina if a person views an eclipse directly. The injury is painless and its effects on vision do not become noticeable until several hours after the retina is injured," said Chou.

Even if the sun is between 80 to 97 per cent covered, viewers still aren't safe without eye protection designed for this purpose. Those planning on viewing the solar eclipse through a binocular or telescope are also still at risk.

"There is a much higher risk when using binoculars or telescopes (without appropriate filters) because your eye is then not only exposed to visible light, but also concentrated infrared light," said Chou. "It's really a one-two punch."

Dr. Ralph Chou is Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Journal of Optometry and Professor Emeritus in the School of Optometry and Vision Science.

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