Ensure eye safety for total eclipse viewing with special-purpose safe solar filters

3ed2164986660800e1febdd05139647dNow is the time to plan for the Total Solar Eclipse on April 8, 2024. One of the most important preparations is to have special-purpose safe solar filter eclipse glasses or handheld solar viewing cards available.

The special-purpose filter eclipse glasses or viewer cards prevent damage to your eyes from potentially harmful ultraviolet (UV) and infrared radiation (IR) light, according to the American Astronomical Society (AAS).

Depending on the weather and location, viewers can watch the total solar eclipse if they’re in the path of totality. The path of totality is about 125 miles wide for April’s total solar eclipse.

The total solar eclipse will happen in stages.

During a total eclipse, the moon passes between the Earth and the sun. The moment the sun is completely shadowed by the moon is known as totality, and viewers experience a total solar eclipse. With the moon progressing toward totality, viewers in the path and those nearby experience a partial eclipse.

Safe eclipse eyewear is important during the partial eclipse. Except during totality – when the sun is completely in shadow – viewers must use their special-purpose safe solar filter eclipse glasses or handheld viewer cards.

Wayne County is in the path of totality, and every stage of the total solar eclipse will be visible. The estimated time for totality in Richmond, Indiana, is 3 minutes, 49 seconds. The partial eclipse phase will last 70-80 minutes for most locations, according to NASA.

Though the time of totality is brief, you must remember to return to wearing your solar filter glasses or using the handheld viewer once its evident totality is ending. Once totality ends, the progression toward partial eclipse begins again until the moon fully passes, and the sun is no longer shadowed.

Don’t fall for unsafe eclipse eyewear: What to look for before you purchase
Before you purchase eclipse glasses or handheld viewers with a special-purpose safe solar filter, you should be aware of what to look for to protect your eye safety and wallet.

The AAS advises checking eclipse eyewear for the international standard, ISO 12312-2, a filter that safely reduces visible sunlight and blocks most of the sun’s UV and IR radiation. To be certified, solar-filter manufacturers must have their products tested by accredited, specialized labs to verify compliance with safety precautions, according to the AAS. Compliant manufacturers can place ISO 12312-2 on their products and packaging.

To verify you’re buying from an accredited vendor, check the Suppliers of Safe Solar Filters & Viewers list provided by the AAS Solar Eclipse Task Force.

Why are certified solar eclipse glasses or viewers important?
You should never look directly at the sun. The Indiana Optometric Association shares looking directly at the sun could cause short-term damage to the front of the eye or long-term damage to the back of the eye that can result in permanent vision loss.

The solar filter on the eclipse glasses and handheld viewers blocks the sun’s rays from harming the eye’s retina, the layer of cells lining the back wall inside the eye. The retina senses light, sending signals to the brain so you can see clearly. By looking directly at the sun, its focused light can burn the retina, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology advises if your eyes hurt after viewing an eclipse, it might not be a sign of solar retinopathy. Damage from the eclipse is unlikely to cause eye pain or discomfort because the retina doesn’t have pain nerves.

The effects after exposure might take a few hours to a few days to be noticeable. The Indiana Optometric Association advises anyone viewing the eclipse and experiencing symptoms after to visit an optometrist or ophthalmologist as soon as possible for a complete eye exam to address potentially severe complications, including vision loss.

Symptoms of damage include:

  • Discomfort
  • Loss of central vision
  • Distorted vision
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Altered color vision
  • Headache

Don’t try to use eclipse glasses or handheld viewer cards with improper eyewear items; doing so doesn’t provide eye protection. The sun’s rays could burn through the eclipse eyewear, causing damage to the glasses or viewer as well as to your eyes. Cameras and telescopes should only be used with specially approved solar filters.

Damage can also occur when using improper eyewear such as:

  • Eclipse glasses or handheld viewers with scratches, punctures, tears, or other damage
  • Sunglasses
  • Binoculars
  • Homemade filters
  • Welder’s helmet glass
  • Smoked glass
  • Exposed film negatives

Remember to assist others who need help understanding the sun’s harm when viewing the eclipse, such as young children.

You’re encouraged to safely enjoy the activities throughout Wayne County and the region during the total solar eclipse on April 8. The next total solar eclipse visible in the United States won’t happen until Aug. 23, 2044.

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