April 13, 2024

Watching the 2024 solar eclipse without protection can harm your eyes. Here’s how to view it safely

“Eclipse Across America” ​​will air live on Monday, April 8 beginning at 2 pm ET on ABC, ABC News Live, National Geographic Channel, Nat Geo WILD, Disney+ and Hulu, as well such as on social media platforms.

Millions of people across North America will soon gather to watch the historic total solar eclipse on April 8.

While it may be appealing to watch the sun slowly covered and eventually completely blocked by the moon, doing so with the naked eye can cause lasting or even permanent eye damage.

“The sun is a really powerful star,” Debra Ross, co-chair of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) Solar Eclipse Task Force, told ABC News. “What this means is that our bodies are not conditioned to look at the sun. It causes damage to our eyes if we try to stare directly at the sun.”

“It’s tempting to try this during the partial phases of a total solar eclipse because you want to see what’s going on,” she continued, adding that looking at the sun without proper glasses will undoubtedly cause retinal damage.

Experts explained why viewing an eclipse can cause eye damage, what kind of glasses you’ll need to watch the “Great American Eclipse,” and when is the only time you can take those glasses off.

What is ‘eclipse blindness’?

Looking at the sun during an eclipse without adequate eye protection – even for just a few seconds – can lead to “eclipse blindness” or solar retinopathy.

This refers to the retina, which is the layer at the back of the eye. Photoreceptors, which are cells within the retina, convert light into electrical signals. These signals are sent by the optic nerve to the brain to create the image a person sees.

However, looking at the sun during an eclipse can burn your retina. Mild symptoms may include watery eyes, eye pain, headaches, and sensitivity to light, but more serious symptoms include blurred vision, blind spots, blurred vision, distorted vision, and eye pain.

“Imagine you look at something that’s very bright and it has an afterimage, and usually the afterimage disappears,” Dr. Jason Comander, director of the Inherited Retinal Disorder Service at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, told ABC News . “Well, imagine the afterimage stayed there for the rest of your life. That’s what an eclipse burn would be like.”

“There have been people who have taken pictures of the retina and you can see a crescent-shaped burn on the retina where the image of the sun has been burned,” he added.

If you believe you have suffered a retinal burn, experts recommend immediately visiting an ophthalmologist, such as an ophthalmologist or optometrist, to monitor the condition.

Can I watch the eclipse with sunglasses?

Typically, sunglasses protect your eyes from harmful rays with a mirror coating and an ultraviolet (UV) coating to protect your eyes from UV light and an anti-reflective coating to limit reflections.

However, when it comes to the eclipse, regular sunglasses won’t offer adequate protection, nor will stacking several pairs of sunglasses on top of each other.

“Unfortunately, sunglasses are not enough, because you need them to be 1,000 times darker than regular sunglasses,” Dr. Nicole Bajic, an ophthalmologist and assistant professor at the Cleveland Clinic Cole Eye Institute, told ABC News. “So we’re looking specifically for eclipse glasses, and these have a special filter called ISO 12312-2.”

ISO 12312-2 is the international safety standard for solar viewers or products designed for direct viewing of the sun. This does not apply to solar filters that fit on the front of devices such as camera lenses.

Because counterfeit glasses, which claim to be ISO compliant but have not actually been thoroughly tested, can easily be found online for sale, it is advisable to check the AAS website for verified suppliers.

“When you get your eclipse glasses, I want everyone to inspect them just to make sure they are free of any scratches, holes or tears that would allow direct sunlight to shine through,” Bajic said.

How do I use solar eclipse glasses?

When observing partial solar eclipse phases, when the moon only partially covers the sun, experts advise keeping eclipse glasses on.

Likewise, if you’re observing through the lens of a camera, binoculars, or telescope, make sure it has a special-purpose solar filter, according to NASA.

The only time it is safe to take off your glasses is during the brief period of totality when the sun is completely covered by the moon, which will last a maximum of four and a half minutes.

Once the moon starts moving, it’s time to put your glasses back on.

“You will see a bright spike of light coming from behind the moon,” Ross said. “You know this is your signal to put them back in and then you can watch the second partial phase of the eclipse.”

Complete totality will only occur along a narrow path, and most of North America will experience a partial solar eclipse. As such, most viewers will require special-purpose safe solar filters to view the eclipse, according to the AAS.

What if I don’t have eclipse glasses?

If you don’t have eclipse glasses, there are still creative ways to view the clips. One of them is through a pinhole viewer.

Punch a hole in a piece of cardboard and look down to see the crescent-shaped sun shadow cast on the ground.

“You can also do this with a regular spaghetti strainer,” Ross said. “You will see many small suns being slowly eclipsed by the moon. We advise doing this rather than trying to look at the sun without approved solar filters.”

To use the viewer, position yourself with your back to the sun so that you are not looking directly at the sun through the hole and use the viewer at your own risk as they are not officially reviewed for safety.

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