THE SOLAR ECLIPSE
With the solar eclipse fast approaching, we see many news articles and TV interviews about the dangers of looking directly at the eclipse. As a child growing up, your parents more than likely than not told you to never look directly into the sun. Something that you probably ignored and still tried, just to be left seeing spots. On August 21, 2017, the United States will experience a solar eclipse and if you try to look at it, this too can leave you seeing spots; or in some cases, damage your retina.
A total solar eclipse happens when the sun is blocked from view by the moon. While it is much more common to see a partial solar eclipse, a total solar eclipse is much rarer. Here in Pennsylvania, we will see a partial eclipse, while southern states will see a full solar eclipse.
It is no surprise when we say that looking directly into the sun without proper eye protection can cause serious eye damage, even leading to vision loss. There are however safe ways to view a solar eclipse.
The safest way to look at the sun is by using solar-viewing glasses, eclipse glasses, or personal solar filters. All three of these are names for the same product. According to the safety recommendations from NASA, the lenses of these glasses are made from special filters that are hundreds of thousands of times darker than your UV protection sunglasses. The lenses on these solar-viewing glasses are so dark that you are not able to see anything other than the surface of the sun.
When you jump online to get your pair of glasses, beware, as NASA has changed the standards for glasses that are safe to use for viewing the sun. The new standard of ISO 12312-2 will ensure that you get the eye protection that you need. Some of the manufacturers that meet this standard are Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics, and Thousand Oaks Optical.
We want to stress that homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even sunglasses that are very dark, are not safe for looking at the sun, or an eclipse of the sun. If you plan on using binoculars or other magnifying devices, be sure to get the proper filter for them. Simply using solar-viewing glasses on them is not enough. The increased magnification can damage the lens of your solar-glasses and leave them less effective.
Be sure to protect your eyes on August 21, as you prepare to look at the moon as it crosses paths with the sun. While this rare occurrence is something to marvel, be sure to enjoy it with the proper eye protection so you don’t damage your eyes.
About the author: John D. Bissell, owner of Bissell Eye Care and Tri-State Low Vision Services, offers comprehensive eye examinations for the entire family, ocular disease detection and treatment, eye glasses, sun glasses, active wear, contact lenses, and low vision examinations for those with significant vision loss. He has undergone specialized training for treatment of low vision by the International Academy of Low Vision Specialists utilizing customized telescopic eyeglasses, prisms and telescopic implants for patients who qualify. The practice accepts most types of vision and health insurance plans.