For the first time in over twenty years, a total solar eclipse will be visible in the United States on August 21st.
During a total eclipse, the sun gradually disappears behind the moon and then reappears. This is when the sun’s outer “corona” is visible. Depending on your location, a partial eclipse will be seen, lasting 2 to 3 hours during which the moon covers part of the sun. The total solar eclipse only lasts 2 to 3 minutes and will be visible from Oregon to South Carolina.
As many are gearing up to witness such an awe inspiring natural occurrence, it is important to keep eye and vision safety in mind. Looking directly at the sun can cause permanent damage, and the only safe way to do so is through special-purpose safe solar filters. Even very dark sunglasses or homemade filters don’t protect your eyes while looking directly at the sun.
The lenses in your eyes act like a magnifying glass, one that is 5 times more powerful than a handheld magnifier. Think about how you can use a handheld magnifier to focus the sun to burn holes in a piece of paper. That’s what happens when you look at the sun without appropriate eye protection. You focus the sun’s light on the retina, burning holes in light-sensitive photoreceptor cells, 5 times faster, and causing permanent blindness. Watching a partially eclipsed sun is when the damage occurs.
Be sure to follow these steps to protect your eyes:
- Anyone planning to view the eclipse should wear a pair of solar viewing glasses or handheld solar viewers that contain safe solar filters. Always supervise children using solar viewing glasses or viewers with safe solar filters.
- Protective eyewear will allow observers to look directly at the sun during the eclipse. Sunglasses and homemade filters should not be used in place of solar viewing glasses – they will not protect your eyes from damage.
- Always inspect your safe solar filter before you use it – if it is scratched or damaged in any way, do not use it.
- Don’t look at a partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, binoculars or telescope – even if you are wearing solar viewing glasses. A special safe solar filter is required to view without damage to your eyes.
Remember – no matter where you observe the eclipse, looking directly at the sun, especially when it is partially covered by the moon, can cause serious eye damage or even blindness.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology published some helpful information to enjoy this spectacular event while keeping your eyes safe!
Be sure to visit AAO’s website to learn more!
And if you have any budding astronomers at home, check out NASA’s website for fun ideas and events surrounding this eclipse!