What you need to know to view the solar eclipse safely

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Solar Eclipse


On Monday, August 21, the U.S. will experience its first coast-to-coast solar eclipse in 99 years. Here in Louisiana, we’ll get about a 75 percent partial view of the moon blocking the sun. Even though part of the sun will be obscured, that doesn’t mean it’s safe to look directly at the eclipse.

Here’s what you need to know to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime spectacle without causing damage to your eyes:

  • It is never safe to look directly at the sun. Looking directly at the powerful brightness of the sun can cause damage to the retina, the light-sensitive part of the eye. Because some of the sun will be visible in Louisiana for the entire duration of the eclipse, you must wear special solar eclipse viewers or filters to avoid harming the retina.
     
  • Even a small amount of exposure can cause blurry vision or temporary blindness. Because there is no feeling of pain during exposure, there’s no physical warning sign you’re causing damage. The sun is 400,000 times brighter than the light of a full moon — that’s why it’s critical to keep your solar filters on at all times.
     
  • Check your solar filters for any signs of damage before using them. If it looks scratched, punctured or torn in any way, discard them.
     
  • Make sure you supervise children who are using solar filters.
     
  • If you wear eyeglasses, keep them on and put your solar filters on over them.
     
  • Only people who are in the path of the total eclipse can look directly at the eclipse when the moon completely covers the sun. If you are one of the thousands of people who will be driving to the midsection of the country for this event, remember to put your solar viewers back on as soon as the sun begins to reappear. Don’t take any chances.

    Photo credit: USA Today

    Photo credit: USA Today

  • Do not look at a partially eclipsed sun through a camera, telescope, binoculars or any other type of lens. The concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eye, causing serious injury. If you want to capture the event on your smartphone, remember to put a filter over the lens. When looking through the lens, always keep your solar eclipse glasses on.

What you need to know when buying solar viewers to protect your eyes:

Photo credit: NASA

Photo credit: NASA

  • When purchasing your solar eclipse viewers, watch out for products that may be potentially unsafe and not authentic solar filters.
     
  • Solar filters that meet the international safety standard (ISO) are 100,000 times darker than ordinary sunglasses and block infrared radiation. The standard to look for is ISO 12312-2.
     
  • While unsafe eclipse glasses bearing the ISO logo have reportedly been flooding the market, the best way to be sure your solar viewer is actually safe is to verify it comes from a reputable manufacturer or dealers.
     
  • The American Astronomical Society offers a list of reputable brands and vendors they trust.
     
  • When looking through safe solar viewers, you should not be able to see anything but the sun. If you can see light from any other source, discard them.

The eclipse will begin around 11:54 a.m. CT, will reach its midway point at 1:26 p.m., and will be over at 2:57 p.m. It promises to be a spectacular sight.

Remember – eye damage is irreversible. So keep your eyes protected, and you will continue to enjoy amazing views like this one well into the future.


About Dr. Fargason

David Fargason, MD is a Board Certified ophthalmologist with the Eye Medical Center in Baton Rouge, La. He received his medical degree from Louisiana State University in New Orleans and completed his residency at Louisiana State University Eye Center in New Orleans. Dr. Fargason specializes in ophthalmology, cataract surgery, refractive surgery and diabetic retinopathy.

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