The world will have its eyes on the sky next week as people watch the first solar eclipse of 2024.

While some Canadian regions will see a full eclipse, Manitobans will see a partial eclipse. 

Although this is a fascinating event, Dr. Irene Mestito-Dao, optometrist and partner at Henderson Vision Centre says it's a terrifying time for optometrists.

"Our biggest fear, of course, is solar retinopathy," said Dr. Mestito-Dao. "Our biggest scare is that people are going to look up at the eclipse and be staring at the sun for too long."

She says the problem with solar retinopathy is that there are no symptoms. 

"It's not like you feel your eyes being burned," Dr. Mestito-Dao explained. "You don't actually see anything until it's gone."

Some symptoms people come out with include blind spots, blurry vision, distorted vision, and sore or red eyes. She says the only safe way to look directly at the sun is through specialized solar glasses. 

"You want to be wearing these, and you want to put them on, and then look up at the sun, and then look back down before you take them off," said Dr. Mestito-Dao. "Sunglasses do not get dark enough to filter the lights properly."

In Manitoba, most schools are taking extreme precautions, keeping kids inside for the entirety of the astronomical event. 

"Here's the thing, if you try to tell your kids not to look at something, they have the tendency that they're going to want to look up," said Dr. Mestito-Dao. "There are too many kids for the teachers to monitor, so unless the teachers have it already in place or the children are mature enough, I would go with the gut instincts of the school."

Another option to watch the solar eclipse safely is to visit the Leaf in Assiniboine Park. The Manitoba Museum’s Planetarium has joined forces with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada – Winnipeg Centre and the Assiniboine Park Conservancy to host a free solar eclipse viewing party from 12:30 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.

Special solar telescopes will be on hand to provide safe views of the eclipse for those who choose to attend, and live feeds from other sites across North America will show the view from the path of totality. 

At the end of the day, Dr. Mestito-Dao says if a person notices changes in their sight after the solar eclipse, they are encouraged to visit their optometrist or go to urgent care. 

To find an optometrist near you, visit the Manitoba Association of Optometrists website