Solar Eclipse | What You Need to Know

Total Eclipse of the Sun Can Cause Solar Retinopathy | Randall Wong, M.D. Retina SpecialistThe Great American Solar Eclipse 2017 is just around the corner.   Are you ready?

Here are some quick tips you will need to know to insure that your family and friends can enjoy this “once in a lifetime” event and protect their vision at the same time.

Total Eclipse of the Sun

Bonnie Tyler will sing “Total Eclipse of the Sun” while aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  The ship leaves from Miami and will be situated within the path of totality as it leaves the coast of South Carolina.

The path of totality starts in Oregon and moves eastward through South Carolina.  The path of totality is about 70 miles wide and will be the only area in the United States where a total eclipse of the sun will be experienced.

For 2 minutes and 4o seconds, those in the path of totality will essentially experience total darkness as the sun is completely blocked by the moon.

Those not within this 11 state swath will experience a partial eclipse.

Protect Your Eyes with ISO Filters

Sunglasses offer no protection from the damaging UV light of the sun.   Only ISO certified filters offer protection from direct sunlight.ISO 12312-2 Filters Protect Against Solar Retinopathy | Randall Wong, MD, Retina Specialist

ISO 12312-2 filters are used in “eclipse glasses” and solar viewers.  These filters are strong enough to allow direct visualization of the eclipse.

ISO filters are the only way to directly visualize the eclipse without risk of solar retinopathy.  Solar retinopathy is caused by the sun’s intense UV radiation causing damage to the rods and cones of your retina.

Symptoms of Solar Retinopathy

While gazing too long at the sun, UV damage to your retina is painless.  Symptoms of solar retinopathy include:

  • Decreased color perception
  • Blind spots in central vision
  • Distortion
  • Pain, especially when looking at bright lights
  • Redness and tearing, especially when looking at bright lights
  • Loss of vision in both eyes

Solar retinopathy can be permanent.  Blindness can occur.

Indirect Viewing is Safest

If you can not find certified ISO eclipse glasses, consider constructing your own pinhole camera.

Using simple materials found around the house (aluminum foil, white paper, tape, scissors), construct an easy to build pinhole camera.

A pinhole camera avoids direct sun light and, therefore, avoids any chance of developing permanent vision loss from solar retinopathy.

All the best,




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How to Watch the Eclipse Safely | Avoid Blindness

Are your prepared to watch the eclipse safely?

WARNING:  It’s never safe to stare directly at the sun or at an eclipse.

Here’s how you can safely view the upcoming eclipse without causing eye damage or blindness.

The Great American Eclipse 2017

A total eclipse of the sun will occur on August 21, 2017 in North America.  This may be a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to experience the “path of totality” – when the moon completely blocks the sun for about 3 minutes.

The “path of totality” is about 70 miles wide and will sweep eastward from Oregon to South Carolina.  For those viewing within this path, they will experience a total eclipse of the sun.  The sky will become a dark twilight.

The rest of the country will experience a partial eclipse – differing amounts of sunlight loss.

Next Total Solar Eclipse

Incidentally, the last total eclipse of the sun occurred on March, 2016 and could be experienced in Indonesia.  The next total eclipse of the sun will occur in South America, 2019.

For most of us, the Great American Eclipse 2017 will be the only practical opportunity to experience this unique astronomical event.

Solar Retinopathy Can Blind

Staring directly at the sun, including an eclipse, can blind you.  The light rays of the sun are strong enough to burn your macula.  The macula is the most sensitive portion of your retina.

Sun damage can permanently destroy your central vision.  This condition is called solar retinopathy.  There is no cure for solar retinopathy.

Never look or photograph the sun without use of special lenses which have been designed specifically for the sun.

Eclipse Glasses Safely Protect Retina

There is only one safe way to view the sun or eclipse.  The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Astronomical Society recommend the use of special lens filters, ISO 12312-2, which have been designed for sun viewing.

If your “eclipse glasses” or solar viewers are compliant with the ISO 12312-2 safety standard, you may view the sun or eclipse safely.

These filters are strong enough to block the harmful rays of the sun and are thousands of times stronger than the darkest sunglasses.

The filters are used in “eclipse glasses” and other solar viewers.  I have included a link to known telescope and solar-filter companies that manufacture eclipse glasses and handheld solar viewers.

It may be fun to construct a pinhole camera to indirectly, and safely, view the upcoming eclipse.  A pinhole camera uses simple materials found around the house and can be a fun and inexpensive way to enjoy the total eclipse of the sun.

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