Monday, Aug. 21 is an exciting opportunity to watch a rare astronomical event — the solar eclipse. But there are safety precautions that need to be taken in order to view the eclipse safely and to prevent damage from occurring to your eyes.
Looking directly at the eclipse can be dangerous
The sun has a wide spectrum of light that can damage the eye. In regular daylight, you can’t look directly at the sun because it is too bright, causing your pupil to contract and preventing all of the sun’s rays from reaching the back of the eye where it causes the most damage.
The danger during an eclipse is that it becomes darker outside, so people can look directly at the sun without their pupils contracting, allowing infrared rays from the sun to penetrate to the back of the eye, causing structural damage to parts of the retina.
The ability to look directly at the sun during a solar eclipse can cause a false sense of security in some. However, the infrared rays that reach the eye can leave a photochemical burn on the retina.
This damage often shows delayed effects, and it is not for hours after the burn that an individual might start noticing black spots appearing in their sight, flashing light or blurred vision. Once damage occurs, there is not a way to treat it. People just have to wait and see if it ends up healing itself or, in some cases, an individual might have permanent damage to their vision.
Tips for watching safely
Luckily, people can still enjoy a solar eclipse with a little planning in advance. We suggest people follow these steps before viewing:
- Wear specific solar eclipse glasses that have the International Organization of Standardization (ISO) number of 12312-2 visible on the glasses. This verifies that the lens meets safety standards for solar eclipse viewing
- Before using glasses, make sure to check them for damages, chips or scratches to ensure the lens is in proper working order
- Practice putting on eye wear in advance. Put the glasses on while looking at the ground before looking up at the bright sun. After you are done viewing the eclipse, make sure to look back at the ground before removing your glasses
- If you plan on using binoculars, cameras, telescopes or similar devices, the instruments must also have a solar filter placed on the front of the device to cover the lens
- Do not look at the sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses. This can actually concentrate the solar rays, damaging the lens filter and allowing the light to enter your eye
The total eclipse begins at 1:02 p.m. and will last approximately 90 seconds. The official watch locations on campus include the City Campus Green Space and the East Campus Mall.
Students, faculty and staff can pick up free eclipse glasses at the following locations:
- RED PIN – location with shifts from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- BLUE PIN – location with shift only from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (The University Health Center will be passing out glasses outside Brace Hall (just south of the stadium. Come see us!)
Check out the University’s official solar eclipse website for more information about eclipse events on campus and in the community.