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What You Need to Know About the Eclipse

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What You Need to Know About the Eclipse

You Have ”Solar” Responsibility for Your Health

On April 8, North America will experience its second total solar eclipse in seven years. The moon will glide over the surface of our sun, casting a shadow over a portion of Earth below. Along this path, the world will turn dark as night.

Because eclipses are rare, we are naturally curious and want to witness them for ourselves. Why eclipses happen is simple: the moon comes between us and the sun. But they are also complicated. There is one thing to know that is more important than anything else:

  • It is never safe to look directly at the sun.
  • This is true in all seasons and conditions, especially during an eclipse.

In general, staring directly at the sun, even for a few seconds, can cause permanent damage to your eyes. This can range from blurry or distorted vision to something even more serious, like blind spots. Because there are no pain receptors in the retina, you won’t feel it while it’s happening.

When there isn’t an eclipse, humans naturally squint or are forced to look away from the sun’s brightness. But during a partial eclipse, the moon’s shadow allows people to stare at the sun longer without experiencing that intense glare. The high-energy rays cast down during that time are akin to a laser pinpointing at the eye. Without feeling the usual sting in their eyes, people are exposed to harmful rays for a longer period.

Avoid looking directly at the sun without special equipment to protect your eyes. Inexpensive options for watching the eclipse include paper solar viewers and glasses. If you are using equipment purchased for a past solar eclipse, make sure to inspect it. Toss anything with scratches or other signs of damage. Be sure you are purchasing ISO certified eclipse glasses.

To watch the eclipse through cameras, binoculars or telescopes, buy a special solar filter. The only time you can view a solar eclipse with the naked eye is during the moments of totality. Once the moon begins to reveal the surface of the sun again, return to watching the event through protective equipment to avoid injury.

The safest way to avoid eye damage, is, of course, not looking at the partial eclipse. Consider watching the upcoming eclipse on TV. Try to avoid driving during the eclipse; sun gazers may stop abruptly on a road or pull over haphazardly creating increased risk of motor vehicle accidents. During totality in areas of no or low additional lighting (i.e. when in a rural area with no overhead lights) driving may be more difficult in general and especially in inclement weather or for those with low vision driving could be hazardous. Walking during an eclipse may be more dangerous as a result.