Solar Eclipse Eye Safety—How to Safely Watch the Eclipse of 2017

August 11th, 2017 by Carolina Eye Associates

Gregory Mincey, M.D.

Arghavan Almony, M.D.

Zeina Haddad, M.D.

On Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, a solar eclipse will be visible across North America (weather permitting). The whole continent will experience a partial eclipse lasting two to three hours. Halfway through the event, anyone within an approximate 70-mile-wide path from Oregon to South Carolina will experience a brief total eclipse. At that point, the moon will completely cover the face of the sun for up to two minutes 40 seconds. If you get a chance to see it, it is important to remember to take care of your vision during the eclipse.

According to retina specialist Gregory Mincey, M.D. “The only time it is safe to look directly at the sun is when it is completely covered by the moon during the totality phase of the eclipse. You must protect your eyes during the rest of the eclipse or you could damage your retina, possibly causing blindness.”

But there are easy ways to view a solar eclipse safely. “You can use special-purpose solar filters found in “eclipse glasses” or hand-held solar viewers. They must meet a very specific worldwide standard known as ISO 12312-2. Look for this number on the glasses to ensure they are certified” said Arghavan Almony, M.D. a retina specialist with Carolina Eye Associates.

“Another option is through pinhole projection” states retina specialist Zeina Haddad, M.D. “This viewer lets you project an image of the sun onto another surface, like paper, a wall or pavement. The image of the sun is safe to look at throughout the eclipse.”

The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Astronomical Society have released the following tips for safe eclipse viewing.

  • 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 ensure 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, 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.

The Aug. 21 total solar eclipse will be an once-in-a-lifetime event for many. A little preparation now can ensure that you and your family enjoy the event and keep your eyes healthy.

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