How to protect your vision while you watch the eclipse

August 18, 2017 | by Alison Sage, D.O.
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

One of nature’s most fascinating events is happening Aug. 21.

Everyone in North America will be able to see a solar eclipse that afternoon. The Chicago area will see a partial eclipse, while downstate folks will see a total eclipse.

It’s an amazing sight. And it doesn’t happen very often (the last total solar eclipse viewed from the contiguous U.S. was on Feb. 26, 1979), so don’t miss it!

But before you run outside for a peek, brush up on eye protection, as staring at the sun can cause serious damage to your eyes.

According to the American Optometric Association, people must use eclipse viewers to safely watch the event. If you watch the eclipse with unprotected eyes, you risk the concentrated rays of the sun causing permanent damage to your retinas.

The American Astronomical Society provides a list of reputable companies that sell solar filters and viewers.

NASA offers these important eclipse safety tips:

  • Always supervise children using solar filters.
  • Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the bright sun. After looking at the sun, turn away and remove your filter — do not remove it while looking at the sun.
  • Do not look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, or other optical device.
  • Similarly, do not look at the sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewer — the concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eye(s), causing serious injury.
  • Seek expert advice from an astronomer before using a solar filter with a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device. Note that solar filters must be attached to the front of any telescope, binoculars, camera lens or other optics.
  • If you are within the path of totality, remove your solar filter only when the moon completely covers the sun’s bright face and it suddenly gets quite dark. Experience totality, then, as soon as the bright sun begins to reappear, replace your solar viewer to look at the remaining partial phases.
  • Outside the path of totality, you must always use a safe solar filter to view the sun directly.
  • If you normally wear eyeglasses, keep them on. Put your eclipse glasses on over them, or hold your handheld viewer in front of them.

Another way to watch the partial eclipse is with a pinhole projector — which could be just your hands.

Make sure you figure out how you’ll safely watch the eclipse, as it’s a can’t-miss event that doesn’t happen very often. After Aug. 21, the next total solar eclipse won’t be until April 8, 2024.

If you can’t see it in person, you can tune in to a live broadcast.

What will you be doing for the eclipse? Share with us in the below comments.

The eye specialists at Edward-Elmhurst Health can take care of all your vision needs. Learn more.

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