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How To Protect Your Eyes While Viewing a Solar Eclipse

If you're planning to view any solar eclipse, it's crucial to remember to protect your eyes.

Experts at the John A. Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah warn that looking directly at any part of the sun during any solar eclipse can cause eye damage, known as solar retinopathy.

"Solar retinopathy can cause vision loss and blind spots that can be long-term or even permanent," says Moran ophthalmologist Jeff Pettey, MD, MBA. "The same risk you would have looking at the sun on a normal day exists during an eclipse if any part of the sun is visible. You might not feel any pain as the damage is being done."

How Does it Happen?

Indirect sunlight enters the eye through the pupil, and the lens focuses it onto the retina in the back eye with no problem. But focusing the lens of your eye directly on the sun's intense ultraviolet and infrared light for an extended period can destroy the retina's photoreceptors—rods and cones that are sensitive to light and dark.

That's why it's critical for anyone and everyone viewing an eclipse to protect their eyesight.

"Unfortunately, sunglasses won't provide adequate protection," Pettey notes. "No matter how dark they are, they don't block the damaging rays."

Safe Ways to Observe and Enjoy an Eclipse

  • Solar Filters:  Solar filters are used in “eclipse glasses” or hand-held solar viewers. They must meet a specific worldwide standard known as ISO 12312-2. You can also use ISO filters onbinoculars, telescopes, or camera lenses. The American Astronomical Society (AAS) advises seeking “expert advice from an astronomer before using a solar filter with a camera, telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device; note that solar filters must be attached to the front of any telescope, binoculars, camera lens, or other optics.”
  • Indirect Viewing: Turn your back to the sun and watch a projection of the action with a device such as a pinhole projector.

View more safety tips here from the AAO and the AAS.