Photo by Leo Patrizi/iStock; courtesy of Total Eclipse Weekend, Columbia, SC
Don’t look directly at the sun.
That might seem like odd advice for viewing the Aug. 21, 2017, solar eclipse. But protecting your eyes is critical. NASA’s eclipse website warns, “Failure to use appropriate filtration may result in permanent eye damage or blindness!”
Only during the few minutes or seconds of totality is it safe to look at the eclipse with the naked eye. Before and after totality—during the partial-eclipse phases—your eyes must be protected. Often, it is children and young adults who suffer eye damage during eclipses, so make sure they are protected, NASA advises.
To view the partial eclipse, watch through a filter that meets the ISO 12312-2 international standard for products made for direct observation of the sun. Special eclipse-viewing glasses certified to meet this standard are available online, and some communities will be distributing free eclipse glasses in the days before the Aug. 21 event.
The sun itself—too bright to stare at, even during a partial eclipse—discourages viewers from looking directly at it. Even if you could manage it, you wouldn’t see an eclipse, Matthew Whitehouse of the State Museum points out.
“You’d just see the sun, because the glare of the sun doesn’t let you see the moon blocking it out,” he says.
Everyone outside the path of totality must use eye protection for watching the partial eclipse.
Within the path, you can remove your glasses only to view totality—only when the sun is fully blocked by the moon and no direct sunlight is visible. Be vigilant, NASA advises; put your eclipse glasses back on before any flash of sunlight returns.
“Sunglasses don’t provide sufficient protection,” Whitehouse says. “Really, it’s just best to get eclipse glasses. They’re cheap.”
Similarly, cameras, binoculars and telescopes without appropriate filters will not protect your eyes, so do not attempt to watch the eclipse through those devices.
Find eye safety tips from American Astronomical Society at eclipse.aas.org/eye-safety/safe-viewing.
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