The excitement over the total solar eclipse (when the moon blocks the sun) is in the air. I don’t remember ever seeing one in my lifetime. As you’ve probably heard, the potential dangers to your eyes are real. When I told my 6 year-old daughter about the real risk (trying to instill in her the importance of not “peeking” while wearing her glasses), she started crying, “I don’t want to go blind.” Turns out, I may have overdone it a little. But there is truth to my warnings. Staring directly at the sun can cause damage to the retina and even blindness, called solar retinopathy.
Only those in the “path of totality” (the 70-mile-wide stretch from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina) will see the total eclipse. In those couple of minutes of complete coverage it is okay to look without protective eyewear. In a place like Utah, where we’ll have about 91% coverage, there is NO safe time to look at the eclipse without protective eyewear.
How do you know if the solar glasses you have are okay?
Eclipse glasses should meet ISO 12312-2: 2015 requirements (be warned that fake products may have the ISO number on it and many retailers have had recalls on their glasses). The American Astronomical Society has some guides to help you determine if your glasses are eclipse-compliant: https://eclipse.aas.org/resources/solar-filters
Tips for safely watching a solar eclipse
Tips below come directly from the American Academy of Ophthalmology website at: https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/solar-eclipse-eye-safety
- Carefully look at your solar filter or eclipse glasses before using them. If you see any scratches or damage, do not use them.
- Always read and follow all directions that come with the solar filter or eclipse glasses. Help children to be sure they use handheld solar viewers and eclipse glasses correctly.
- Before looking up at the bright sun, stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer. After glancing at the sun, turn away and remove your filter—do not remove it while looking at the sun.
- The only time that you can look at the sun without a solar viewer is during a total eclipse. When the moon completely covers the sun’s bright face and it suddenly gets dark, you can remove your solar filter to watch this unique experience. Then, as soon as the bright sun begins to reappear very slightly, immediately use your solar viewer again to watch the remaining partial phase of the eclipse.
- Never look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars or other similar devices. This is important even if you are wearing eclipse glasses or holding a solar viewer at the same time. The intense solar rays coming through these devices will damage the solar filter and your eyes.
- Talk with an expert astronomer if you want to use a special solar filter with a camera, a telescope, binoculars or any other optical device.
Enjoy the solar eclipse safely!