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Demand for glasses is high due to the total solar eclipse on April 8

Demand for glasses is high due to the total solar eclipse on April 8

MONTREAL – These days, Mylène Gamache-Tremblay spends her evenings and weekends taking orders for solar eclipse glasses, packing them and shipping them all over the eastern part of the country.

The Montreal-area online toy seller says it literally takes all of her days to fill orders.

Solar eclipse spectacles are popular in large parts of eastern Canada, which on April 8 will find itself in an excellent path for this rare phenomenon in astronomy. But as the fateful date approaches, demand outstrips supply. Canadian experts warn of the need to act quickly to ensure they can observe this celestial phenomenon without risking eye damage.

Ms. Gamache-Tremblay, who, in addition to her regular job, owns the online educational and science toy store Funique, said she initially ordered one box of the glasses to sell for about $5 each. Since then, she's had to reorder dozens of times — and she's not sure her supplier will continue to have enough stock.

Other retailers are already out of stock.

The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada has no longer sold glasses online since mid-February. Executive Director Jenna Hinds says the organization requested about 50,000 last year and another 25,000 this year. Although this allowed them to save a few pairs to sell in person, Ms. Hinds appreciates that they were able to reorder several times.

“Eclipses — especially total eclipses — that can be seen in Canada don't happen very often,” Ms. Hinds said in a phone interview. “It appears to be a centuries-old tradition of selling spectacles along the eclipse path.”

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The demand has led to concerns that people will order glasses that offer no real protection, or worse, rely on their sunglasses or welding goggles. High demand during the 2017 partial solar eclipse led to “dangerous counterfeit glasses” appearing on Amazon, according to Discover the Universe, a training program offered by Canadian astronomers.

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Hinds says it's important that glasses meet safety standards set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), blocking about 99.999% of high-intensity visible light. Otherwise, she warned, people who look at the sun during the eclipse risk eye damage, ranging from “temporary spots in your vision to leaving you completely blind.”

On the afternoon of April 8, Canadians witnessing a total eclipse — when the moon completely covers the sun's disk — will peer through their glasses as the sun shrinks to a quarter, then completely obscures it, due to the passing of Earth's satellite. During the few moments of totality, but no longer, an observer can safely remove his glasses and see the eclipse with the naked eye.

NASA says the total eclipse in continental North America will begin on the morning of April 8 on the Pacific coast of Mexico, before crossing the United States, southern Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton, then leaving the continent. It crossed the Atlantic Ocean, flying over the island of Newfoundland, at 5:16 p.m. local time.

In Quebec, the total eclipse will only be visible on a strip about 200 kilometers wide in the south of the province at around 3:25 p.m., depending on the precise geographical location, as we read on the Éclipse Québec website.

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Ms. Hinds suggests using sites like “À la recherche de l'univers” or “Éclipse Québec” to find retailers that sell certified eyewear.

She says many schools already have them for distribution, and some retailers or science organizations sell them in person even if they are sold online. Organizations offering special events on that day will also offer free glasses in many cases, although supplies will be limited.

Thus, in Montreal, experts from the Planetarium and Space for Life will be present in the Jean-Drapeau Park to accompany observers and distribute 150,000 pairs of glasses for free. Mont-Mégantic National Park, which prides itself on its location “on the center line of the totality” of the eclipse, is organizing activities at the site on April 8. The Mont-Mégantic Observatory will also present a special program broadcast on its Facebook page and on YouTube.

Enthusiasm for the eclipse has been “astronomical” — venues for some special events have sold out within an hour, Hinds says.

She recommends “The Plan.” This is the best advice we can give anyone. Make sure you know where you want to go to view the eclipse, and make sure you have your glasses. And order yours now if you don't already have it!