Kugler Vision Modern Vision Solutions Ilumin
Skip links

How to View an Eclipse Safely

As celestial events like solar eclipses captivate millions around the world, it’s essential to remember the importance of eye safety. While witnessing a solar eclipse is a breathtaking experience, staring directly at the sun, even during an eclipse, can cause serious damage to your eyes. Your MVS team is here to offer tips on how to enjoy these phenomena safely.

The sun emits powerful ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can harm the eyes’ delicate tissues. During a solar eclipse, the moon partially or completely blocks the sun’s rays, creating a mesmerizing sight for those within the eclipse path on Earth. However, this does not diminish the intensity of the UV radiation. In fact, staring at the sun during an eclipse can cause solar retinopathy, a condition characterized by damage to the retina due to exposure to bright light.

Eye Safety When Viewing an Eclipse

  1. Use Solar Viewing Glasses: Invest in a pair of ISO-certified solar eclipse glasses. These specialized glasses are designed to block harmful UV rays and infrared radiation while allowing you to observe the eclipse safely. Before use, ensure that the glasses are in good condition and free from scratches or damage. Modern Vision Solutions will have ISO-approved glasses on hand starting this week—stop in to snag your eclipse-viewing shades! 
  2. Binoculars or Telescopes: If you plan to use binoculars or telescopes to enhance your eclipse viewing experience, never look directly at the sun through these devices without proper solar filters. Improper use can amplify the sun’s rays and increase the risk of eye damage.
  3. Pinhole Projection: An alternative method for observing a solar eclipse is through pinhole projection. Create a pinhole projector by poking a small hole in a piece of cardboard or paper. Position another sheet of paper or a surface several feet away from the pinhole, and allow the sunlight to pass through the pinhole onto the second surface. You’ll see a projected image of the eclipse safely without risking eye damage.
  4. Monitor Children: Supervise children closely during a solar eclipse to ensure they do not attempt to view the event without proper eye protection. Educate your child or children about the risks of looking directly at the sun and encourage safe viewing practices.

Solar eclipses are awe-inspiring celestial phenomena that capture the imagination of people worldwide. However, it’s crucial to prioritize eye safety when observing these events. As eye care providers, we urge everyone to follow these expert tips for safely enjoying a solar eclipse. Remember, protecting your vision is essential for experiencing the wonders of the universe for years to come. If you have any concerns about your eye health or experience any symptoms of eye discomfort after viewing a solar eclipse, don’t hesitate to contact MVS. We’re here to safeguard your sight!

What type of eyewear is safe for viewing an eclipse?

Safe eyewear for viewing a solar eclipse should meet specific criteria to protect your eyes from harmful ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) radiation. Here are the key features of eclipse-viewing eyewear:

  1. ISO Certification: Look for eclipse glasses that are certified to meet the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard. This certification ensures that the glasses provide adequate protection against harmful solar radiation.
  2. Specialized Filters: Eclipse glasses should have specialized solar filters that block 99.999% of visible light, as well as UV and IR radiation. These filters typically have a dark, opaque appearance and should not allow any visible light to pass through except for the sun’s direct rays during an eclipse.
  3. No Scratches or Damage: Inspect the glasses for any scratches, punctures, or other damage that could compromise their effectiveness. Even small defects can allow harmful radiation to reach your eyes.
  4. Proper Fit: Ensure that the eclipse glasses fit securely over your eyes and provide full coverage without gaps. This prevents any stray sunlight from reaching your eyes inadvertently.
  5. Instructions for Use: Eclipse glasses should come with clear instructions on how to use them safely. Follow these instructions carefully to ensure proper eye protection during the eclipse.
  6. Reputable Source: Purchase eclipse glasses from a reputable source, such as science museums, astronomy organizations, or certified vendors. Avoid cheap or counterfeit glasses, as they may not provide adequate protection.

When wearing eclipse glasses, remember to keep them on whenever you are looking directly at the sun, even during a partial eclipse. Never remove the glasses or attempt to view the eclipse with the naked eye, as this can cause permanent eye damage.

Can I use regular sunglasses to view an eclipse?

No, regular sunglasses are not safe for viewing a solar eclipse. While sunglasses can reduce the intensity of visible light and glare, they do not offer adequate protection against the harmful ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) radiation emitted by the sun, especially during an eclipse.

Staring at the sun without proper eye protection, such as specialized eclipse glasses or solar filters, can cause serious and irreversible damage to your eyes. Even if the sun appears dimmed during an eclipse, it can still emit harmful radiation that can harm your vision.

Regular sunglasses do not have the necessary filters to block out the intense light of the sun, and they can actually increase the risk of eye damage by causing your pupils to dilate and allow more light to enter your eyes.

To safely view a solar eclipse, it’s essential to use eclipse glasses that meet the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard or other specialized solar filters specifically designed for eclipse viewing. These glasses and filters are designed to block out harmful UV and IR radiation while allowing you to observe the eclipse safely.

Remember, never look directly at the sun with the naked eye or with regular sunglasses, binoculars, telescopes, or cameras without proper solar filters. Always prioritize your eye safety when observing solar events.

How can I view a solar eclipse without glasses?

If you don’t have access to eclipse glasses or solar filters, there are still safe ways to experience the eclipse indirectly:

  1. Pinhole Projection: Create a pinhole projector using a piece of cardboard or paper. Poke a small hole in the center of the cardboard and hold it up to the sun. Allow the sunlight to pass through the pinhole and project an image of the eclipse onto a surface, such as another piece of cardboard or the ground. You’ll see a small, inverted image of the eclipse, which is safe to observe.
  2. Pinhole Camera: Similar to pinhole projection, you can create a pinhole camera using a cardboard box or tube. Cut a small square or circular hole in one side of the box and cover it with aluminum foil. Poke a pinhole in the foil and aim the pinhole toward the sun. A projected image of the eclipse will appear on the opposite side of the box, where you can view it safely.
  3. Use Nature’s Filters: During a solar eclipse, you may notice that sunlight passing through the leaves of trees creates crescent-shaped shadows on the ground. You can observe the eclipse indirectly by looking at these natural projections. You can also use a colander or a tree with small gaps between the leaves to create similar projections.
  4. Live Streams or Broadcasts: Many science organizations and observatories livestream solar eclipses online or broadcast them on television. You can safely watch the eclipse in real time from the comfort of your home without risking your eyesight.

Are there any risks associated with viewing a solar eclipse?

Yes, there are several risks associated with viewing a solar eclipse, particularly if proper precautions are not taken:

  1. Eye Damage: Staring directly at the sun, even for a short period during an eclipse, can cause permanent damage to the retina of the human eye. This damage, known as solar retinopathy, occurs when the intense light of the sun overwhelms the retina’s ability to recover, leading to vision loss or blindness.
  2. Unprotected Viewing: Without proper eye protection, such as certified eclipse glasses or solar filters, viewing a solar eclipse can result in severe eye injury. Even using makeshift filters or sunglasses is insufficient protection against the harmful ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) radiation emitted by the sun during an eclipse – and don’t even think about just a hat or attempting to shield your face and eyes with your hands!
  3. Optical Device Misuse: Using binoculars, telescopes, or cameras to view a solar eclipse without proper solar filters can amplify the sun’s rays and cause eye damage. Additionally, improper alignment of these optical devices increases the risk of accidental direct exposure to the sun.
  4. Traffic Accidents: During a solar eclipse, drivers may become distracted or stop abruptly to observe the phenomenon, leading to an increased risk of traffic accidents. It’s essential to remain vigilant and avoid engaging in distracted driving behavior while on the road.
  5. Physical Hazards: In their eagerness to view the eclipse, individuals may inadvertently put themselves at risk of physical injury by navigating unfamiliar terrain, tripping over objects, or colliding with others.

More FAQ’s About How To View An Eclipse Safely

Where can I buy eclipse glasses?

You can buy eclipse glasses from various sources, including:

  1. Science museums and planetariums
  2. Astronomy clubs or organizations
  3. Online retailers, such as Amazon or specialty astronomy websites
  4. Certified vendors recommended by reputable sources, such as NASA or the American Astronomical Society

When purchasing eclipse glasses, ensure they are certified to meet the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard and are from a reputable seller to ensure their authenticity and effectiveness in protecting your eyes during solar viewing events. The good news is, if you live near Modern Vision Solutions in Omaha, you don’t have to source your own! Swing by our location in the week prior to the eclipse for a safe viewing apparatus. Supplies are limited.

Can I use a telescope or binoculars to view the eclipse?

Yes, for the astronomers among us, you can use a telescope or binoculars to view a solar eclipse, but it must be done with extreme caution and with the appropriate solar filters or solar viewing equipment to protect your eyes. Viewing the sun directly through an unfiltered telescope or binoculars can cause serious and permanent eye damage, including solar retinopathy.

If you plan to use a telescope or binoculars to view a solar eclipse, follow these safety guidelines:

  1. Use Solar Filters: Attach a specially designed solar filter to the front aperture of the telescope or binoculars. These filters are specifically designed to block out harmful ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) radiation while allowing you to safely observe the sun. Ensure that the solar filter is securely attached and covers the entire aperture to prevent any unfiltered sunlight from entering the optical instrument.
  2. Use Solar Filters for Eyepieces: In addition to the front aperture filter, use solar filters or specially designed solar eyepieces for telescopes or binoculars. These filters fit over the eyepieces and provide an additional layer of protection against solar radiation. Never look directly at the sun through the eyepiece without the appropriate solar filter.
  3. Monitor Alignment: Properly align the telescope or binoculars to ensure that the solar image is projected onto a safe viewing surface, such as a white card or screen. Avoid looking directly through the eyepiece when aligning or adjusting the equipment to prevent accidental exposure to the sun’s intense light.
  4. Supervise Carefully: If children or inexperienced observers are present, closely supervise their use of telescopes or binoculars to ensure they follow proper safety procedures. Educate them about the risks of viewing the sun directly and the importance of using solar filters.
  5. Attend a Public Viewing Event: Consider attending a public eclipse viewing event organized by astronomy clubs, science museums, or observatories. These events often provide safe solar viewing equipment, including telescopes with solar filters, and offer expert guidance on observing the eclipse safely.

What are the phases of the eclipse, and how do they affect viewing?

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, partially or completely blocking the sun’s light. There are several phases of a solar eclipse, each with its own characteristics that affect viewing in the United States or other parts of the world:

Partial Eclipse: During a partial solar eclipse, only a portion of the sun’s disk is obscured by the moon. From the perspective of an observer on Earth, it appears as though a dark shadow is gradually encroaching upon the sun’s surface. The level of darkness increases as the eclipse progresses, reaching its maximum extent when the sun is partially covered by the moon. Viewing a partial eclipse requires proper eye protection, such as certified eclipse glasses or solar filters, to prevent eye damage from the intense sunlight.

Total Eclipse: A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon completely covers the sun, casting a shadow known as the umbra onto the Earth’s surface. During totality, the sky darkens dramatically, and the sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona, becomes visible to the naked eye. Observers within the path of totality experience a brief period of darkness, known as the “totality,” which lasts for a few minutes. Total solar eclipses are rare and offer a breathtaking spectacle that captivates viewers around the world. It is safe to view the total eclipse with the naked eye only during the brief period of totality when the sun is completely obscured by the moon. However, proper eye protection is still required before and after totality to avoid eye damage from the sun’s intense rays.

Annular Eclipse: An annular solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes directly in front of the sun but does not completely cover it. As a result, a ring of sunlight, known as the “ring of fire,” remains visible around the edges of the moon’s disk. Annular eclipses occur when the moon is near its farthest point from Earth in its orbit, making it appear slightly smaller in the sky compared to a total eclipse. Viewing an annular eclipse requires proper eye protection, as the sun’s rays are still intense and can cause eye damage if viewed directly.

How long can I look at the solar eclipse?

During a solar eclipse, you can safely view the event with proper eye protection, such as certified eclipse glasses or solar filters. The duration of safe viewing depends on the type of eclipse and whether you’re within the path of totality. Remember never to look directly at the sun without protection, even during a partial eclipse.

What should I do if I accidentally look at the sun during an eclipse?

If you accidentally look at the sun during a solar eclipse, it’s essential to take immediate action to minimize the risk of eye damage. Here’s what you should do:

  1. Look Away Immediately: As soon as you realize that you’ve looked at the sun without proper eye protection, avert your gaze away from the sun immediately. Do not continue to stare at the sun, as this can exacerbate any potential damage to your eyes.
  2. Close Your Eyes: Close your eyes and avoid rubbing them, as this can further irritate the delicate tissues of the eyes. Keeping your eyes closed helps reduce exposure to the intense sunlight and gives your eyes a chance to recover.
  3. Move to a Shaded Area: Seek shade or move indoors to reduce the amount of sunlight reaching your eyes. Find a cool, dimly lit environment where you can rest and allow your eyes to recover from the exposure to bright light.
  4. Rest Your Eyes: Rest your eyes for a while to minimize strain and discomfort. Avoid engaging in activities that require focused vision, such as reading or using electronic devices, until your eyes feel more comfortable.
  5. Apply Cool Compresses: If your eyes feel irritated or sore, apply cool compresses to help soothe them. Use a clean cloth dampened with cold water and gently place it over your closed eyes for several minutes at a time.
  6. Monitor for Symptoms: Keep an eye out for any symptoms of eye damage, such as blurred vision, sensitivity to light, or eye pain. If you experience persistent or worsening symptoms, seek medical attention promptly.
  7. Consult an Eye Care Professional: If you’re concerned about your eye health or experience any lingering symptoms after accidentally looking at the sun during an eclipse, consult an eye care/optometry professional for a comprehensive evaluation. They can assess your eyes and provide appropriate treatment or guidance based on your individual needs.