On Monday, August 21, all of North America will be treated to an eclipse of the sun. With millions of eyes hoping to catch one of nature’s most awe-inspiring events, Dr. Brendan Butler wants to make sure solar eclipse-watchers are taking proper precautions to avoid serious, and potentially permanent, eye damage.
“When you’re viewing the eclipse, you want to do it in a safe way so you’re not doing any damage to your eyes or your retina,” says Dr. Butler. “Generally, to have vision loss it usually takes at least a few seconds. The longer you look, the worse the damage is.”
Dr. Butler recommends two methods for viewing the eclipse without causing harm. The first is with certified viewing glasses that block out enough light to safely observe the event. These special lenses prevent ultraviolet and infrared light from passing through, as well as visible light. Purchasers will want to look for glasses certified by either ISO or CE. Medical Eye Center has certified glasses available for $1 per pair.
“Regular sunglasses are not going to be effective,” Dr. Butler adds. “There’s light outside the visible spectrum that can do damage to our eyes, so even if it looks dark enough, there may still be damage-causing infrared light coming though.”
The second recommended method for viewing the solar eclipse is with a pinhole camera, with which users can indirectly view the eclipse’s reflection on the ground. As an alternative, observers can also try holding up a colander or standing under a tree, and then watching the light beams below as they pass through the holes or leaves.
If you do experience poor vision after the eclipse, Dr. Butler recommends coming in to Medical Eye Center for an examination so your doctor can determine the extent of the damage and formulate a treatment plan.