Eye Safety: Viewing the Solar Eclipse

Total Solar EclipseThis summer stargazers and the curious alike will enjoy a rare occurrence. A solar eclipse will be visible across the contiguous United States on Monday, August 21. On that day the moon will block out the sun while traveling over North America, including a total solar eclipse for a brief period. The last time this occurred over the contiguous United States was February 26, 1979.

Watching a solar eclipse can be an extraordinary experience but looking directly at the sun can seriously damage your eyes. Proper eye protection during the eclipse period is necessary to avoid damaging your vision permanently.

“Solar retinopathy is a very serious condition. Staring at the sun – even for a very short period of time – without the right eye protection can damage your retina and lead to permanent vision loss,” explains Karen Gehrs, MD, an ophthalmologist who specializes in retinal diseases at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

The retina is the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye. Solar retinopathy occurs when sunlight burns and potentially scars the retina. Symptoms include central graying and fuzziness of vision. It can occur in one or both eyes.

“It is important to know that regular sunglasses, even very dark ones, cannot protect your eyes from damage caused by looking directly at the sun,” Gehrs cautions. 

Special-purpose solar filters or certified eclipse glasses may be used to view an eclipse. If a solar filter is not available, the safest way to watch a solar eclipse is by turning your back to the sun and watching a projection through devices like a pinhole projector.

Make sure you are prepared and know the how to keep your eyes safe. Proper preparation and eye protection will ensure a safe and memorable eclipse experience.

Learn more about safe viewing of the solar eclipse and risks associated with staring at the sun:

Download Solar Eclipse Eye Safety PDF

Solar Eclipse Eye Safety

Date: 
Monday, August 7, 2017