Protect your eyes during next week’s solar eclipse in Southern California

 

Watching the eclipse could be enlightening or interesting or, if you roll this way, soul nourishing.

It also could be bad for your eyes.

Eye injuries from watching a solar eclipse are most common in children and young adults, but on Monday, when an eclipse will be at 69 percent in Southern California, everybody who wants to sky gaze should protect themselves with proper viewing equipment, doctors say.

While it’s human nature to avoid looking directly at the sun on a normal day, the novelty of the rare celestial spectacle could override those instincts. Wearing ordinary sunglasses will not offer enough protection.

“This is going to be an interesting astronomical phenomenon, so we’re going to want to stare at it,” said Dr. Baruch Kuppermann, a UC Irvine ophthalmologist and retina specialist. “We may overrule our common sense by our desire to see it.”

Here’s what you need to know for safe viewing:

How can I safely view the partial eclipse?

Serious eye damage can occur from viewing the sun even when it’s partially covered by the moon. Wear eclipse glasses or watch with a handheld solar viewer or through pinhole projection.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, eclipse glasses must meet the worldwide standard known as ISO 12312-2. Recommended vendors can be found here: https://eclipse.aas.org/resources/solar-filters

Carefully examine your solar filter or eclipse glasses before using them. Don’t use a pair that’s been scratched or damaged. Read and follow all directions and supervise use by children.

Put the glasses on before looking up at the sun. After viewing the eclipse, turn away and remove the glasses.

Why aren’t dark sunglasses good enough?

Regular sunglasses absorb at most 90 percent of sunlight while eclipse glasses are designed to absorb 99.99 percent, according to the Mayo Clinic.

“Sunglasses are not designed to look at the sun,” said Dr. Colin McCannel, a UCLA ophthalmologist and retina specialist. “They’re designed to keep the stray sunlight out of your eyes when you’re driving or sitting on the beach. The eclipse glasses are designed specifically to look at the sun.”

What happens if I look directly at the partial eclipse?

Damage can occur in seconds, not minutes, Kuppermann said. The retina is a delicate structure in the back of the eye that can be permanently scarred by the intensity of the sun.

“The risk is to the central retina, the part you use for reading, driving, recognizing people’s faces,” Kuppermann said. “Don’t take a risk. There will be no safe viewing moments without protection.”

McCannel compared looking at the sun to using a magnifying glass to burn dried leaves.

“Because the sun has so much energy, power and heat, when it gets concentrated by being focused into one tiny spot, there’s an extra amount of energy and heat,” McCannel said. “The longer the person looks at the sun the more severe the vision loss is going to be.”

What has research shown about eye injuries after an eclipse?

Injuries are most common in children and young adults. In a Canadian study, young men were more likely to ignore danger warnings and suffer injury from viewing.

“Particularly teenagers and perhaps very young adults tend to have a sense of invincibility that’s just part of the development cycle,” McCannel said. “If somebody thinks they’re Superman and can stare at the sun and it won’t hurt them, the sun is stronger and the physics will outweigh any sense of invincibility.”

After the 1999 partial eclipse in the United Kingdom, more than half of those with vision loss watched with no eye protection. Thirty percent wore sunglasses and 14 percent reported using eclipse glasses or welder’s masks. All 70 patients recovered their vision after several weeks, according to a summary written by B. Ralph Chau, a Canadian optometry professor.

However, McCannel cautioned that many patients will continue to have abnormalities that later in life can cause premature aging damage and vision loss.

While wearing eclipse glasses, is it safe to take pictures or use binoculars?

No. The intense solar rays coming through the devices will damage the solar filter and your eyes.

“You’re introducing much more light energy than those glasses have been designed to block,” McCannel said. “They concentrate more light into that small focal point than would be captured on the flat surface of the eclipse glasses.”

Is it safe to watch from the car or indoors?

No. Tinted glass does not provide adequate protection, Kuppermann said. If you’re indoors, a number of websites will stream the eclipse live, including NASA.

Are some people at greater risk than others?

Yes. Those with lighter eye color or underlying eye disease are more susceptible to damage, Kuppermann said.

NASA Mobile Desktop and Mobile Application

To launch the NASA “Eyes Eclipse 2017” app click, https://eyes.nasa.gov.  From there click on “Eclipse app” then click “Launch interactive”

 

By  | cperkes@scng.com | Orange County Register

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