By: Dr. Nicole Sopp, OD
On August 21st America will be afforded a chance to witness some rare celestial entertainment as the sun temporarily disappears behind the moon producing a rare total solar eclipse. The skies on a course approximately 70 miles wide between Oregon and South Carolina, otherwise called the "path of totality" will experience the full event as the sun gets completely eclipsed by the moon. These fortunate viewers will be in for a real treat as skies rapidly darken and galaxies within the universe generally hidden will become exposed. This will be the first total solar eclipse the U.S. has been able to witness since 1979 and the first time ever a total solar eclipse will appear exclusively in U.S. skies. For this reason, the event has been dubbed the "Great American Eclipse".
Fortunately, weather permitting, everyone in North America will be able to witness at least a partial eclipse with the moon covering at least 2/3 of the sun. The timing of the show will depend on geographic location, but this interactive map will show you timing for the eclipse anywhere in the world.
As incredible as it is going to be to witness this cosmic event it is imperative that everyone takes the time to review how to watch the solar eclipse safely. Remember to NEVER EVER view a solar eclipse without proper eye protection since even a sliver of sun showing from behind the moon can cause solar retinopathy resulting in serious damage to your eyes and even permanent blindness. Exposure to solar radiation can result in a phototoxicity resulting in oxidative damage to the eye's photoreceptors (the cells in the back of the eye that respond to light). On a normal day people don't stare at the sun long enough to cause damage to the retinal photoreceptors, but this is not the case during a solar eclipse. Even more concerning, when the moon is partially covering the sun during a solar eclipse it is more difficult to feel that your eyes are getting burned. And since the retinal injury is sustained by photochemical reaction, viewers often won't know their vision has been permanently damaged until the following day.
Traditional sunglasses are not enough to protect your eyes during a solar eclipse event. In order to keep your eyes protected during eclipse viewing special solar filters or eclipse glasses that meet a specific worldwide standard known as ISO 12312-2 must be utilized. The only time it is safe to view the eclipse without an approved solar filter is during totality, or when the moon completely blocks the sun, but this will only happen along that "path of totality" between Oregon and South Carolina and only for a minute or two. If you are viewing the solar eclipse with binoculars, a telescope or even photographing the phenomenon, make sure the lenses on your devices are equipped with approved solar filters and be sure solar eclipse glasses are being worn over the eyes as well. Always make sure to follow the exact instructions on your solar viewers and help children to make sure they are utilizing their devices correctly.
Thank you to all of you who purchased your solar eclipse glasses at EYESPOT! We are now completely out of stock. All profits from the sale of these glasses are being donated to our charity partner, The Birat Eye Hospital in Nepal, where underprivileged children will receive a new pair of prescription glasses.