Solar Eclipse 2017: Can you watch the eclipse with your phone camera?

eclipse glassesPablo Blazquez Dominguez /

As you may have heard, a total solar
is making its way across the continental US today.

You need to wear protective solar eclipse glasses to safely
watch the moon cross in front of the sun, as the
sun’s powerful rays can cause serious eye damage
if they are
viewed directly. (There are
good ways
to watch the event without staring at the sun if
you haven’t been able to find glasses.)

But one method of trying to watch without directly looking should
be avoided, according to Dr. Tongalp Tezel, a retina expert at
Columbia University Medical Center.

Don’t try to watch the eclipse through the front-facing selfie
camera on your phone, Tezel
said in a news release

You can
take photos of the eclipse with your phone camera
damaging the sensor, as long as you don’t have a zoom lens
attached — there’s no danger to the camera itself.

But your phone screen can reflect ultraviolet light back into
your eye, according to Tezel, potentially causing the same damage

solar retinopathy
— that looking at the sun itself can cause.
Even taking a selfie without wearing eclipse glasses could
reflect the sun’s light back into your eyes, potentially
elevating the chance of a risky moment.

“Many people will think it’s safe to take a selfie with the
eclipse in the background because they aren’t looking directly at
the sun,” said Tezel. “What they may not realize is that the
screen of your phone reflects the ultraviolet rays emitted during
an eclipse directly toward your eye, which can result in a solar

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, symptoms of injury caused by sun damage usually
include blurred vision, dark or yellow spots, pain, or loss of
vision in the center of the eye. That sort of damage can make it
hard or impossible to read or to focus on whatever is right in
the center of your view.

For some people, vision recovers within 24 hours — but there
could still be damage to the eye, which could result in
later problems. In general, people recover as much vision as they
are going to within six months of the event, according to the
American Academy of Ophthalmology

If you are within the 70-mile-wide band of totality, you can
safely remove your protective glasses once the sun is totally
covered. You’ll know it’s time because you won’t be able to see
anything with those glasses on. But as soon as beads of light
start to re-appear, it’s time to protect your eyes again. Even 1%
of the sun is enough to cause damage.

If you can’t find eclipse glasses, we’d recommend
making a simple pinhole viewer
to watch safely.