Photo: Joel Rosenbaum, AP
Monday’s solar eclipse should leave a lasting impression on your memory.
Don’t let it leave one on your eyes.
That’s the warning of federal government experts as well as local eye doctors.
“Irreversible damage can occur in one second,” said Dr. Robert Schultze, an ophthalmologist with Cornea Consultants in Albany.
Here are the most important things to know:
- In the Capital Region, there will be NO safe moment to look at the eclipse without covering your eyes with special-purpose solar filters or handheld viewers. Check to make sure these viewers comply with the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard.
- Regular sunglasses will not protect you. Nor will some bogus eyewear promoted for eclipse use by unsavory manufacturers. And definitely not binoculars or the kind of telescope an amateur might keep at home – in fact, these lenses add danger because they intensify the sunlight.
- Children and young adults most likely to suffer blindness from looking at an eclipse, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. That’s likely because they’re the most likely to ignore the safety rules, Schultze said.
Here’s how the eclipse could damage your eyes: On a regular day, light enters your pupil and is directed to the back of your eye, the place called the retina. During a solar eclipse, the intensity of light can overwhelm the eye, causing a thermal burn, Schultze said.
You won’t feel this, because the retina has no pain receptors. But it could blind you, nonetheless – and take several hours before you know it.
The only safe time to look at an eclipse without special filters is during “totality” – when the moon appears to completely cover the sun in the sky. This is a moment of complete darkness that will occur in some parts of the country but NOT in the Capital Region.
A filter that’s strong enough to block damaging ultraviolet and infrared light won’t allow you to see much at all in regular light, Schultze said. If you are trying on filters and can see another person in the room, they’re not adequate, he said.
Cornea Consultants recommends four manufacturers with eclipse glasses that meet the ISO safety standard: Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics, Thousand Oaks Optical, and TSE 17. The American Astronomical Society has a more comprehensive list, with reputable retail chains selling them, at https://eclipse.aas.org/resources/solar-filters.
As an alternative to the special filters, NASA, AAS and others say a solar eclipse can be safely viewed through a pinhole projection. This does not in any way involve looking at the sun through a pinhole. In fact, the technique involves keeping your back to the sun while you view the sunlight that passes through an opening, like one punched through an index card or made by crossing the fingers of one hand over another. Instructions are at https://eclipse.aas.org/eye-safety/projection.