Solar Eclipse Mania!

Image result for solar eclipse images

There are a TON of articles on the internet about Monday’s Solar Eclipse – its truly an incredible phenomenon!  But please don’t ignore the warnings about protecting your eyes – here’s what you need to know:

The sun is the most powerful source of energy in the solar system.

 Its so intense, that if you look directly at it, it can actually burn your retina!  When light enters your eye, the lens focuses light to the retina, located in the back of the eye.  We “see” because the retina’s chemical sensors pick up on the presence of light and transmit information to the brain.

The retina can handle indirect sunlight, but looking directly at the sun is too intense.

Think of what happens when you hold a magnifying glass up to the sun; it can focus light intensely enough to start a fire.  Since a big chunk of sunlight is near-infrared radiation which can cause heat and thus burns, something similar happens with the lens in your eye when its focused directly on the sun (Solar Retinopathy).  The light from the sun is very intense and concentrated into a very small area called the fovea.  Its converted to heat which burns the retina, leaving a permanent burn.  This can leave a permanent blind spot in the most central part of the vision, where we perceive the sharpest vision.  Unfortunately, our retina doesn’t have pain receptors, so you can’t “feel” the sunburn.  What’s more, the burn doesn’t heal because the retina is made of nerve tissue, which doesn’t readily regenerate.

In addition, looking at the sun can cause a photochemical toxicity, forming free radicals that can attack the retinal tissue and cause cell death.  Once the retinal tissue is destroyed, it cannot regenerate.

How long does it take for damage to occur?

Only seconds!  Its like an intense burn – damage can happen almost immediately, but obviously the longer the exposure, the more damage can occur.  In cases of relatively short exposure and minimal damage, symptoms may resolve over weeks to months, but in more severe cases, the damage is permanent.  Children are particularly at risk, as they have virtually no natural protection – their pupils are large and their lenses are clear, both of which allow more light to the retina.

How will your vision be affected if you suffer damage?

You may have loss of your central vision (solar retinopathy), distorted or blurred vision, or altered color vision.  These symptoms may show up immediately, within days or weeks, or even in years to come.

So how do you view the eclipse safely?

 Sunglasses are NOT ENOUGH!!!  They don’t block enough light.  Viewing the sun without damage requires glasses that filter all but 0.003% of visible light, and block out most ultraviolet and infrared light as well.  When you put your NASA approved solar eclipse glasses on, you will notice that you can see almost nothing!  If you’re not sure if the glasses you purchased are safe, you can visit the American Astronomical Society for a list of trusted vendors.  If you’re still not sure, your safest bet is to watch the footage on TV – its not worth the risk!

Happy Viewing on Monday – be safe, and please comment on your experience!