The Eclipse: Beautiful but Dangerous

Lifespan Blog Team

With August 21 just around the corner, folks are eagerly awaiting the chance to see a once-in-a-lifetime event: the solar eclipse. It’s been nearly 100 years since the last total solar eclipse has been visible in the United States, so Monday’s event is sure to be exciting. While this astronomical phenomenon is rare and beautiful, it’s also a danger to your eyes.

Looking directly at a total solar eclipse with bare eyes can be a serious risk to eye health. Here are some ways you can protect yourself during this can’t-miss event.

Eye protection

To view the eclipse safely, you must wear ISO-certified glasses. This certification guarantees that the glasses will protect your eyes without allowing them to be damaged.  These can be found on many major retailers’ websites or in stores. Because many retailers have already sold out, there are unscrupulous retailers who sell “eclipse glasses” that are not ISO-certified. Be sure to check before you buy.

Both the total and partial eclipse require special glasses for eye safety. NASA and the American Astronomical Society urge you to purchase a pair of specialized eclipse-viewing glasses. If you’re in what's called the “path of totality,” the sun will be completely covered by the moon’s shadow for roughly two and a half minutes. Although it may be tempting to watch without eye protection, it’s not recommended! The path of totality is only about 80 miles wide, and areas outside of the path will only see a partial eclipse. Regardless, you must be wearing eye protection at all times and regular sunglasses will not suffice.

An alternate view

Don’t be fooled by the fact that looking directly at the eclipse will not cause you any pain. It will, however, make you see a shadow image of the sun once you look away. This can actually be a serious eye health issue and may become permanent.

If you don’t wish to order specially rated glasses, you can also make your own eclipse viewer. Once it’s built, you may view the eclipse through the viewer and an image will be projected back to you.

Why won’t my sunglasses work?

Specialized solar eclipse glasses are purpose-built to reduce the brightness of the sun by a factor of 10,000, while regular sunglasses typically reduce by a factor of 10. Sunglasses will not adequately protect against all of the ultraviolet, infrared, or visible light rays that will be emitted during the solar eclipse. Unprotected viewing can damage retinas and land you in the emergency room.

This eclipse is an exciting event and Americans everywhere are sure to go out to view this rare opportunity. If you plan on watching, make sure your eyes are protected and inform others of the dangers of bare-eye viewing. Enjoy this natural wonder safely!

To learn more about eye care and Lifespan Ophthalmology services visit www.lifespan.org or call 401-444-6551.

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