04 Aug Solar Eclipse Safety
Steps to follow for safely watching a solar eclipse:
1. Carefully look at your solar filter or eclipse glasses before using them. If you see any scratches or damage, do not use them.
2. Always read and follow all directions that come with the solar filter or eclipse glasses. Help children to be sure they use handheld solar viewers and eclipse glasses correctly.
3. Before looking up at the bright sun, stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer. After glancing at the sun, turn away and remove your filter-do not remove it while looking at the sun.
4. The only time that you can look at the sun without a solar viewer is during a total eclipse. When the moon completely covers the sun’s bright face and it suddenly gets dark, you can remove your solar filter to watch this unique experience. Then, as soon as the bright sun begins to reappear very slightly, immediately use your solar viewer again to watch the remaining partial phase of the eclipse.
5. Never look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars or other similar devices. This is important even if you are wearing eclipse glasses or holding a solar viewer at the same time. The intense solar rays coming through these devices will damage the solar filter and your eyes.
6. Talk with an expert astronomer if you want to use a special solar filter with a camera, a telescope, binoculars or any other optical device.
While it is very newsworthy and exciting that the United States will have the privilege of viewing the total solar eclipse on Monday, August 21, the phenomenon itself is not a rare occurrence as many of us have been led to believe. In fact, the opposite is true: on average, a total solar eclipse is visible from somewhere on the Earth’s surface roughly once every year and a half.
So why is everyone so excited about August 21, 2017?
Because, for us in the United States, it’s been awhile! The last time our country had the honor of witnessing this celestial show-of-shows, here’s what was happening in the United States:
- President Jimmy Carter was in office.
- We proudly sported alligator-embellished shirts while listening to “mix tapes” on our Sony Walkman.
- Bo Derek made a provocative fashion statement with her slow-motion blonde cornrows in the movie “10.”
- Rupert Holmes caused us to ponder our relationships with his song Escape (The Piña Colada Song).
- The terms smart phone and Google* didn’t yet exist.
In 1979, thirty-eight years ago, on February 26, a total eclipse of the Sun was visible on a path across the northwestern U.S. states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, and the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. This year, scientists predict that North America will be treated to this spectacular event on August 21st beginning with a path of first visibility in Salem, Oregon and ending with final visibility in Charleston, South Carolina. On October 14, 2023, it is predicted that an annular solar eclipse will be visible from California to Florida. According to scientists, the next total solar eclipse will be visible in the United States from Texas to Maine on April 8, 2024.
“For the first time since 1979, a total eclipse of the Sun is coming to the continental United States, and for the first time since 1918, it is crossing the country from coast to coast.”— American Astronomical Society
What’s DIFFERENT about annular and total solar eclipses?
Considered less spectacular by most eclipse enthusiasts, during an annular eclipse, the moon is further away from the earth giving the appearance of the moon being smaller in the sky, and therefore not completely covering the Sun. This results in a ‘ring of fire’ where the Sun still emits direct light.
What’s the SAME about annular and total solar eclipses?
Neither phenomenon is safe to view with the naked eye.
While Florida is not in the “path of totality” for the August 21st total eclipse (we will experience only about 80% totality from our vantage point), do you think that means you will be safer, or more at risk? If you guessed more at risk, you are correct! Because we will only witness a partial eclipse, there will be harmful Sun rays for the duration of the event. PLEASE: keep your eclipse glasses on throughout the whole event and make sure they are ISO and CE-certified for safe viewing.
On August 21, ultraviolet light —which we can’t see— is what could literally sunburn your eyes. With every eclipse, doctors across the world report the reason a few people always end up going blind during an eclipse is that in the partial phase, the visible light is reduced enough that it’s not painful to look at, so people assume it’s safe. But there’s still plenty of UV, and that blinds them.
Even quick glances without proper protection during an eclipse are not safe; damage can occur within a short minute and a half, and not necessarily all at once. Taking quick peaks may seem wise, but it only adds cumulative exposure which is equally as damaging as prolonged exposure.
The bottom line is this: be wise, protect your eyes. As exciting as it is, the common phenomenon of a solar eclipse is not worth severely damaging —or completely losing— your sight.
Protect Your Vision During the Eclipse
Before the eclipse, make sure you are prepared and know how to keep your eyes safe. The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Astronomical Society have released these tips for safe eclipse viewing. Watching a solar eclipse is a memorable experience, but looking directly at the sun can seriously damage your eyes. Staring at the sun for even a short time without wearing the right eye protection can damage your retina permanently. It can even cause blindness, called solar retinopathy.
There is only one safe way to look directly at the sun, whether during an eclipse or not: through special-purpose solar filters. These solar filters are used in “eclipse glasses” or in hand-held solar viewers. They must meet a very specific worldwide standard known as ISO 12312-2.
Keep in mind that ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, or homemade filters are not safe for looking at the sun.
While you cannot completely prepare yourself for the sight of a total solar eclipse, ophthalmologists — physicians who specialize in medical and surgical eye care — want you to 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.” — American Academy of Ophthalmology
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