By Rebecca Jones
You likely have thought about looking up to the sky to catch a glimpse of the solar eclipse on Aug. 21, from 10:21 a.m. to 1:13 p.m., but before you crane your neck and gaze up, consider safety first.
No, wearing several pairs of sunglasses won’t protect your eyes.
Neither will donning polarized sunglasses.
What about wearing a welder’s shield?
That won’t work either, says Dr. Joaquin Tosi, director of the Retina Service at the University of New Mexico Health System.
Don’t even think about briefly sneaking a peek without any protection, he says. To prevent causing irreparable damage to the only set of eyes you have, wear a pair of solar filter glasses.
“The most important thing (about the solar eclipse) is that you have to protect the kids,” Tosi says. “The kids are more prone to remove the glasses. Make sure they keep the glasses on all the time.”
Don’t risk it
Watching the eclipse without protective glasses can cause blurred vision for minutes or hours, Tosi says. But the damage can include blind spots in the vision. And as you age, you might find that your vision seems normal except for the black dot in the center of your line of vision, says Tosi, who is a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).
According to the AAO, looking directly at the sun during a solar eclipse can also cause temporary vision loss, residual blurring and/or distortion, or permanent vision loss, called solar retinopathy. The loss of vision happens when the retina’s image-sensing photoreceptors are destroyed following initial damage to the retina and adjacent tissue, Tosi says.
You’ll know you’ve damaged your eyes from the eclipse if right after you look at it, you see a central black dot in your vision, Tosi says.
“In the moment, it burns the cells and there’s no way to recover,” Tosi says. He explains that laser pointers can have the same damaging effect.
The only safe way to look at the sun is using solar filter glasses that meet a standard known as ISO 12312-2.
Safely view the solar eclipse
Here are some ideas on how and where to safely watch the solar eclipse on Aug. 21:
- The UNM Campus Observatory, 901 Yale NE, is holding the UNM Eclipse Viewing Party from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. You’ll have an opportunity to see the solar eclipse through a professional telescope, and UNM experts will be there to answer questions. UNM’s Department of Physics & Astronomy is selling solar viewing glasses for $1 each but they’re selling fast. Find them for sale at 1919 Lomas NE.
- The New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science will provide a variety of safe viewing devices starting at 10:30 a.m.
- The Albuquerque and Bernalillo County library system will host solar eclipse viewing parties, activities and story times, depending on the branch. Some locations will hand out free solar glasses on the day of the eclipse, while others will have solar viewing telescopes on hand.
The AAO offers more information on buying solar glasses and safety tips.