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Are you getting ready for the solar eclipse in your family? (It’s exciting, isn’t it?) This year’s eclipse on August 21st is the first time that people in the United States will be able to view the eclipse since 1979!
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But, while we’re doing all those cool eclipse lesson plans, projects, and crafts leading up to the big day, have you really considered the safety aspect of looking at the eclipse?
Solar Eclipse Safe Viewing
Viewing the solar eclipse is serious business. So serious that Amazon.com recently announced that they were refunding some of the solar eclipse viewing glasses sold on their site because it was feared that they weren’t safe enough. (However, they also noted that there are safe glasses still sold on the site.)
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It was that seriousness that lead optometrist Michael Schecter to post about it on his personal Facebook page, asking others to share his post.
“There are serious risks associated with viewing a solar eclipse directly, even with the use of solar filter glasses. Everyone should keep in mind if they or their children are considering this.
We have to keep in mind that some people will encounter the inability to control every aspect of this exercise. For instance, true solar eclipse glasses are made for adults, do not fit children well and should not be used without direct parental supervision. If the solar glasses do not filter out 100% of the harmful UV rays, if they are not used absolutely perfectly, or should there be a manufacturing defect in any of them, this will result in permanent and irreversible vision loss for any eye exposed. Just like sunburn to the skin, the effects are not felt or noticed immediately.”
So, why is it bad to look at a solar eclipse and how can the eclipse damage your eyes?
If you look directly at the sun during an eclipse, it could result in something called “solar retinopathy.” With this condition, the eyes are damaged from the electromagnetic solar radiation. According to the Vision Eye Institute, [the sun] delivers rays of electromagnetic solar radiation, which makes staring at the Sun, especially during a solar eclipse, potentially very harmful to the eyes. The damage occurs in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue lining the inner surface of the eye. When harmful radiation from the sun reaches the retina, it causes what is known as solar retinopathy.”
This happens more during solar eclipses because it is more comfortable to stare at the sun. During a sunny day, you cannot stare directly at the sun without becoming uncomfortable and blinking or looking away. However, during an eclipse, the darkness makes you blink fewer times and the pupils contract less–both which are ways your body protects your eyes.
Although solar retinopathy is rare, if it happens there is no reversing it.
Also, your pets’ eyes can be damaged during the solar eclipse, so you might want to keep them indoors during that time if you can.
Where to Buy Solar Eclipse Glasses
So how can you protect your eyes during the eclipse? You can buy protective solar glasses, but make sure you look for the brands that NASA has approved as safe, which are “ISO and CE Certified” glasses like the ones found here.
Apparently, you can also use welder’s glasses, which have been said will also safely protect your eyes.
How to Make Solar Eclipse Glasses
Is it safe to make your own solar eclipse glasses? Probably not.
So, how do you see a solar eclipse without eye protection? You can make the old-fashioned key hole viewer, but you need to view it with your back to the eclipse!
WARNING: DO NOT view the sun through a telescope, binoculars or camera without a proper solar filter.
How to Build a Homemade Shoebox Pinhole Camera
With just a few items you have around the house, you can make a safe homemade solar eclipse viewer (also called a pinhole box and eclipse viewer box)! Check out the how to video below.
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