Protecting Your Eyesight

The Solar Eclipse and Your Eye Safety

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By Henry Ford Health System Staff

As you have undoubtedly heard, a rare total solar eclipse will be visible across the United States on Monday, Aug. 21. The eclipse occurs when the moon’s orbit takes it into a path between the sun and the earth where it will completely obstruct the image of the bright sun. The full eclipse can only be seen in a narrow band stretching across the country from Newport, Oregon, to Charleston, S.C.

The Solar Eclipse and Eye Safety

This composite image from NASA captures close to what the human eye sees during a total solar eclipse. The ribbons of light are the sun’s atmosphere, which is controlled by the magnetic field.

Michigan will see a partial eclipse between 1 and 4 p.m., with 80 percent of the sun covered up around 2:27 p.m. or so.

According to Henry Ford ophthalmologist Paul A. Edwards, M.D., here’s what you need to know about eye safety and the eclipse:

  • Do not view it without proper eye protection. Looking directly at the sun can cause serious eye damage or blindness.
  • Do not view it through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars or other optical device.
  • Wear special eclipse glasses that employ solar filters. These are special filters that prevent damage from the bright sunlight. NASA and the American Astronomical Society recommend glasses that meet the current international standard: ISO 12312-2. Be careful that the special eclipse glasses provide the proper protection — some have been recalled.
  • You can view indirectly using a pinhole box. Not looking at the sun directly but with your back to the sun, viewing the inverted image reflected on the back wall of the pinhole box.
  • Dark sunglasses or homemade filters won’t provide protection.

What about pets? While dogs and cats don’t instinctively look at the sun, they may be startled, thinking that twilight has arrived. Experts recommend keeping your pets indoors at least 30 minutes before and after the eclipse.

If you miss this one, the next eclipse arrives April 8, 2024.

Related topic: Are Digital Devices Harming Your Vision?

Visit henryford.com to learn more about eye care, including ophthalmology and optometry services, at Henry Ford Health System.

Dr. Paul A. Edwards is a board-certified ophthalmologist, specializing in retinal disease, diabetes-related eye care and macular degeneration, and is the chair of the Henry Ford Department of Ophthalmology. He sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Center – Livonia, Henry Ford OptimEyes Supervision Center – West Bloomfield and Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. 

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