By Nicole San Roman

Solar Eclipse Safety

It’s the time of year when New Mexico is enjoying the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta so, of course, we’re all looking up! But this year, it’s not just hot air balloons that will bring eyes to the sky—but a solar eclipse as well, and it’s critical that you have the proper eye protection for yourself and your kids.

The peak of the solar eclipse will happen in New Mexico on Saturday, October 14 at 10:36 a.m. and will last just under five minutes.

Robert Avery, MD, PhD, is a professor at the University of New Mexico’s School of Medicine in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. He says people should never look directly at the sun, including during an eclipse.

“Partly because the intensity of the light coming from the sun is so strong. It's about 1,000 times stronger than any light source that we normally look at,” Avery says.

He says the sun also emits other forms of energy like ultraviolet and infrared radiation that can damage the retina of the eye.

“Looking at the sun directly even for just a few seconds can damage the retina which is where the light detectors are in the eye,” Avery says. “This forms a blind spot or what we call a scotoma in your central vision. It would be painless, so you wouldn't recognize it's happening. Normally people will notice that blind spot a few hours after the event, even if they've just viewed for a few seconds the sun.”

Avery says sometimes the blind spot will go away in a few months, but other times it’s permanent.

That’s why Avery says there are important tips to remember during a solar eclipse.

Eclipse Safety Tips

  • Do not to look directly at the sun unless you have special filters to protect your eyes.
  • Do not look directly at the eclipse through a camera (including smartphone) or telescope.
  • Solar eclipse filters have a special certification identification: ISO 12312-2. Look for that identification number  on solar eclipse glasses or viewing card to verify certification.
  • It’s important to watch your kids during a solar eclipse – make sure they are using protective eyewear and not  looking directly at the sun.
  • The American Astronomical Society publishes a verified list of solar eclipse filter manufactures and sellers.
  • More tips here
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