On August 21, 2017, millions of people in the U.S. will see day turn to night during the Great American Solar Eclipse. The last time this happened from coast to coast was 1918. Temperatures will drop rapidly as the moon completely covers the sun. You will be able to see the spectacular colors and light of the sun’s atmosphere, a sight revealed to us only during a total solar eclipse.
While you cannot completely prepare yourself for the amazing sight of a total solar eclipse, you should be prepared with proper eye protection. Viewing even the smallest sliver of a crescent sun peeking out from behind the moon is enough to cause irreversible damage to your vision. The powerful rays of the sun can burn holes in the retina, leading to an irreversible condition called solar retinopathy.
Sadly, many people who directly viewed the sun during an eclipse have lost central vision. There is no treatment for solar retinopathy and it can cause blindness.
There is one exception to this rule. There is a brief phase during a total solar eclipse when it is safe to look directly at the sun. This phase is called Totality, and it lasts about 2 minutes. It occurs when the moon entirely blocks the sun’s bright face. But as soon as the sun begins to reappear, put the solar filters back on.
The path of Totality is about 70 miles wide and stretches from Oregon to South Carolina. It passes through Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Outside the path of Totality, sky watchers will see a partial solar eclipse.
There are no exceptions to the rules for safely viewing a partial solar eclipse. To keep your eyes safe, remember these four tips:
- Use specially designed solar eclipse glasses and viewers to block the sun’s harmful rays. Ordinary sunglasses, even dark ones, are not strong enough to protect your eyes. To date, only four manufacturers have certified that their eclipse glasses and handheld solar viewers meet international safety standards:
o Rainbow Symphony
o American Paper Optics
o Thousand Oaks Optical
o TSE 17
- Inspect your solar filter before the eclipse, and don’t use it if it’s scratched or damaged.
- Another option is to view the eclipse through #14 welder’s glass. That’s much darker than the shades arc welders typically wear
- Use solar filters on camera lenses, binoculars, and telescopes. Do not use solar eclipse glasses to look through a camera, binoculars or a telescope. The sun can melt the filter and damage your eyes.
Hope you have a safe and memorable Great American Solar Eclipse– your eyes will thank you for years to come!