DALLAS (NEWSnet/AP) — Millions of people in North America will get a unique perspective on the sky during the April 8 total solar eclipse.

For those who take a peek, experts say safety is key to protecting their eyes.

Staring directly at the sun during a solar eclipse (or at any other time) can lead to permanent eye damage. The eclipse is only safe to witness with the naked eye during totality, which is the period of total darkness when the moon completely covers the sun.

Those eager to experience the eclipse should buy eclipse glasses from a reputable vendor. Everyday sunglasses are not protective enough, and binoculars and telescopes without a proper solar filter might magnify light from the sun, making them unsafe.

“Please, please put those glasses on,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said.

“It can be dangerous if we aren’t careful, but it’s also very safe if we take the basic precautions,” Dr. Geoffrey Emerson, a board member of the American Society for Retina Specialists, said about eclipse viewing.


Where to Find Eclipse Glasses


Eclipse glasses have been available from some retailers for the past few weeks. But since counterfeit glasses may be in the mix, consider purchasing glasses from a local science museum or order online from a seller cleared on the American Astronomical Society’s website.

Eclipse safety experts say legitimate eclipse glasses should block out ultraviolet light from the sun and nearly all visible light. When worn indoors, only very bright lights should be faintly visible – not household furniture or wallpaper.

Old eclipse glasses saved from the 2017 total solar eclipse or October’s “ring of fire” annular eclipse are safe to reuse, as long as they aren’t warped and don’t have scratches or holes.

Glasses should say they comply with ISO 12312-2 standards, though fake suppliers might also print this language on their products.

NASA does not approve or certify any specific brand of eclipse glasses.

Check out the video below from NASA to see if your glasses will work for the eclipse:


How to Use Eclipse Glasses


If you don’t have eclipse glasses, you can still enjoy the spectacle through indirect ways. The common suggestions include:

  • Poke a hole through a piece of cardstock or cardboard, hold it up during the eclipse and look down to see a partial crescent projected below.
  • Hold up a colander or a cracker and look at the shadows that are created on the ground.
  • Peer at the ground under a shady tree can, where you will see crescent shadows as the sunlight filters through branches and leaves.

But! Eye experts warn against viewing the eclipse through a phone camera. The sun’s bright rays can also damage a phone’s digital components.

Why Looking at the Sun is Dangerous


The sun’s bright rays can burn cells in the retina at the back of the eye. The retina doesn’t have pain receptors, so there’s no way to feel the damage as it happens. Once the cells die, they don’t come back.

Symptoms of solar eye damage, called solar retinopathy, include blurred vision and color distortion. There’s no set rule for how long of a glance can lead to permanent damage. Severity varies based on cloudiness, air pollution and a person’s vantage point.

There have been reports of solar retinopathy after every solar eclipse, and U.S. eye doctors had dozens of additional client visits after the eclipse in 2017.

In a documented case of eclipse eye damage, a woman who viewed the 2017 eclipse without adequate protection came to Mount Sinai’s New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, complaining of a black spot in her vision. Doctors discovered retinal damage that corresponded to the eclipse’s shape.

“The dark spot she was describing was in the shape of a crescent,” said Dr. Avnish Deobhakta, a Mount Sinai ophthalmologist.

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