Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re aware of the upcoming solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. The total eclipse will darken skies all the way from Oregon to South Carolina, along a stretch of land about 70 miles wide. People who attend the big event are in for an unforgettable experience; a solar eclipse is a spectacular astronomical event. There is a great deal of interest in watching eclipses, and many people are predicted to flock to its path to experience it. Approximately 12 million people live within the narrow band of totality, and approximately 25 million reside with a day’s drive of it. If you are one of those people who plan to experience this phenomenon, it’s important to be prepared to protect your eyes!
Looking directly at the sun, even when it is partially covered by the moon, can cause serious eye damage or even blindness. Solar retinopathy occurs when harmful radiation from the sun reaches the eye and is concentrated by the lens onto the retina. This burns the retina and destroys the cells that enable you to see. There is no treatment for solar retinopathy and recovery can take 3-6 months. Loss of central vision can even be permanent.
Anyone planning to view to total solar eclipse this summer should get a pair of solar viewing glasses. These protective lenses make it possible for observers to look directly at the sun and should be worn so that no direct radiation from the sun can reach the eye. According to NASA, three manufacturers have certified that their eclipse glasses and hand-held solar viewers meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard for such products: Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics, and Thousand Oaks Optical. Make sure you purchase viewing glasses from one of those companies. Sunglasses CANNOT be used in place of solar viewing glasses. Other materials that are unsafe and should never be used for solar viewing include: black developed color film, exposed film negatives, photographic neutral-density filters, food wrappers, polarizing filters, smoked glasses, CDs or DVDs, and “space blankets”.
Enjoy the eclipse next month, but make sure you protect your sight!