Tuesday, April 23, 2024

How To Safely Watch The Solar Eclipse on April 8th

With the upcoming total solar eclipse, there has been a lot of buzz around the need for proper eye protection. I’ve heard some people claim that the eclipse glasses online are nothing but sunglasses, or that looking at the eclipse through your camera is perfectly safe. In actuality, protecting your eyes from the solar eclipse could save your vision and is a topic that should be taken very seriously.

The total solar eclipse is going to take place on Monday, April 8 of this year. This year’s total solar eclipse is the first to happen in 7 years in the US. In most parts of the world, a total solar eclipse is only visible every 100 or so years. The next total solar eclipse visible in North America won’t be until 2044. The last time a total solar eclipse was visible in these parts of the country was in 1918. 

I cannot stress enough how historical and special this event is going to be. If you are not within the path of totality, I suggest traveling to an area that is to experience the true otherworldliness of complete darkness in the middle of the day. Many places across the path of totality are having events, like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indiana. It is 100% worth the time to travel to see this astronomical event. It is also not the same if you are in even 98% totality. I have big regrets over not traveling to a location of totality in 2017 so I am not making the same mistake this year.

How To Safely Watch The Solar Eclipse on April 8th
Photo Credit: Adam Krypel/Pexels

A total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon orbits directly between the Earth and the Sun, leaving a shadow from the Moon and a period of total darkness over the affected area. The path that the eclipse will take this year is only 124 miles wide and crosses from Maine to Texas. The period of darkness can last anywhere between a few seconds to several minutes. 

You’re probably wondering, ‘well if the eclipse makes it darker outside, why will looking at it damage my eyes?’ As the Sun darkens during an eclipse, your eyes think it’s getting dark, but the Sun’s rays are still just as powerful. Therefore, your pupils dilate to let in more light and natural protective defenses such as pupil contraction and blinking don’t kick in as they should.

The retina of your eye does not have the ability to feel pain, so you won’t even know your eyes are being damaged until the detrimental effects take place. “Eclipse blindness” or retinal burns, can occur from a short period of time looking at the eclipse. Even seconds of exposure to the sun can cause damage or even destroy cells in your eyes that transmit what you see to the brain.

The best line of defense against these strong rays of light are specially manufactured eye wear that can be purchased at a plethora of places before the big event. Make sure the glasses you purchase meet safety requirements and are manufactured with the ISO 12312-2 standard. Also make sure the glasses are made by a trusted source. On the American Astronomical Society website, you can find a list of reputable sources to purchase your glasses from.

When the Sun is completely covered by the Moon during totality, you should use extreme caution if you decide to remove your glasses. The total darkness may only last a few seconds or a few minutes. It is recommended to keep your protective eyewear on at all times to avoid any risk of retinal damage. 

How To Safely Watch The Solar Eclipse on April 8th
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

A do-it-yourself way of seeing the Eclipse is also an option. It’s called pinhole projection and allows you to avoid looking directly at the eclipse by using a projected image. To make this viewer, stick a pinhole in cardboard with the Sun on one side and a piece of paper three feet away without obstruction to project the image on the paper. Make sure you do not look through the pinhole at the Sun. There are many places to find instructions online and plenty of examples of how to design your own pinhole projector. 

On April 8, make sure you follow all the safety precautions to ensure you can view the total solar eclipse with your family and friends safely and happily. Buy some glasses or make your own pinhole projector, travel into the path of totality, and enjoy the astronomical event of a lifetime!

Words by Emily Cigan @emily.cigan and Amy Harris @thetraveladdictig

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Amy Harris
Amy Harris is a writer and photographer who has been traveling for 20 years and flown over 2 million miles to visit over 80 countries on 6 continents. She is a freelance photographer for Invision by Associated Press, AP Images and Rex/Shutterstock. Her work can be seen in various publications and websites including: Rolling Stone, AP Images, National Geographic Books, Fodor’s Travel Guides, Forbes.com, Lonely Planet Travel Guides, JetStar magazine, and Delta Sky Magazine.

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