Eye safety a big concern during the solar eclipse

2 months 3 weeks 2 days ago Wednesday, July 26 2017 Jul 26, 2017 Wednesday, July 26, 2017 4:53:00 PM CDT July 26, 2017 in Eclipse Science
By: Kenton Gewecke, KOMU 8 Chief Meteorologist
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COLUMBIA - The views you will experience during the total solar eclipse might take your breath away, but in order to see the solar corona safely you must have proper eye protection. If you don’t wear approved solar eyewear, Dr. Frederick Fraunfelder, the Director of Ophthalmology at MU Health, said you could do serious damage to your eyes.

“The sun burns the very important layer of the retina called the macula," explained Fraunfelder. "Damaging the cones in your macula can permanently damage your vision by burning them with direct light from the sun."

Fraunfelder says eclipse glasses have a solar film that will block out many light waves regular sunglasses will not. “They will block out UVA, UVB, infrared light, and also intense visual light."

It’s important to block this light out so you can safely look directly into the sun for the partial eclipse before and after totality.

During totality, when the sun’s light is completely blocked out for up to 2:40 in mid-Missouri, you will need to take the glasses off in order to see the spectacle that is night during the day. You will see stars, a few planets and the solar corona, the sun's atmosphere. Read our Deep Dive into the eclipse for the answers to common questions about this event.

However, be sure you don’t take the glasses off too soon. If you do, you may miss out on totality altogether. Your eyes might not be able to adjust to the darkness if you catch a glimpse of the sun’s light prior to totality.

“We call that an after image,” says Fraunfelder, “and that is neural signals to your brain still firing after the lights already stimulated the rods and the cones and after images is a good way to explain you sorta see purple or red after you've stared into a bright light."

Be sure your glasses are approved and safe! NASA released a statement saying glasses are being passed around that do not meet adequate safety guidelines. Glasses must have "ISO 12312-2" printed on them. Only four companies have been approved as manufacturing safe solar eclipse glasses: American Paper Optics, Rainbow Symphony, Thousand Oaks Optical, and TSE 17. Check your glasses to be sure you're protected.

Using a magnifying system such as binoculars? You must have a solar filter on the front of the binoculars or telescope. If you look through non-filtered magnification of the Sun's light through solar glasses positioned over your eyes there will be considerable damage to your eyes. Again, the sun's light and energy is being magnified and solar glasses are not made to withstand that.

You can read more about safe solar eclipse viewing on NASA’s website.

Pick up your free KOMU 8 Show Me Eclipse glasses at Dollar General Stores in Columbia, Jefferson City, Fulton and Mexico while supplies last. The Mizzou Store is also selling eclipse glasses for $1.50 with some proceeds going back to the Astronomy Department.

If you’re wondering what the night sky may look like in the early afternoon on August 21st during totality, you can see the image above.

You can read all our Show Me Eclipse coverage, continuously updating with new content, at KOMU.com/eclipse.

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