Skip to main content

Solar Eclipses and Eye Safety: Shielding Your Vision from the Sun's Glare


Solar eclipses are awe-inspiring celestial events that captivate people around the world. However, it's crucial to remember that these captivating displays also pose significant risks to your eyesight. Looking directly at the sun during a solar eclipse can lead to severe and potentially permanent eye damage. In this blog post, we'll delve into the importance of solar eclipse eye safety and explore ways to protect your eyes during these celestial phenomena.

Understanding Solar Eclipses

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves between the sun and the earth, temporarily blocking the sun's light and casting a shadow on the earth. There are two main types of solar eclipses: total and partial. During a total solar eclipse, the moon entirely covers the sun, revealing the sun's outer atmosphere known as the solar corona. In contrast, a partial solar eclipse occurs when the moon only partially obscures the sun. It's vital to understand that viewing even a partial solar eclipse without proper protection can harm your eyes by exposing them to harmful solar rays.

The Dangers of Solar Eclipse Exposure

Exposing your eyes to the sun during a solar eclipse, without adequate protection, can result in a condition known as "eclipse blindness" or solar retinopathy. This condition can cause damage to the cells in the retina, which is responsible for transmitting visual information to the brain. The damage can be temporary or permanent and may not manifest any immediate pain, making it all the more insidious. Symptoms may include a loss of central vision, distorted vision, or altered color perception. If you experience any of these symptoms after viewing a solar eclipse, seeking prompt treatment from an eye care professional is crucial.

Safe Viewing Guidelines

To safeguard your eye health while enjoying a solar eclipse, follow these safety guidelines:

  1. Total Solar Eclipse Safety: The only time it's safe to view a solar eclipse without specialized equipment is during the brief period when the sun is in total eclipse. However, even during this phase, exercise caution, as the total eclipse duration is short. If you're unsure about the timing, consult with your eye care professional for guidance.

  2. Solar Eclipse Glasses: Use certified solar eclipse glasses that meet the ISO 12312-2 standard to view an annular or partial solar eclipse safely. These glasses should be worn at all times during the eclipse, except during the very brief period of total eclipse. Be cautious and avoid using damaged glasses with torn or scratched lenses.

  3. Pinhole Projection: A cost-effective and safe method to watch a solar eclipse is through pinhole projection. Create a pinhole in a cardboard paper, allowing the sun's image to project onto another unobstructed piece of paper placed three feet away. Do not look through the pinhole directly at the sun.

  4. Alternative Options: Consider using Number 14 welder's glass or aluminized mylar plastic sheets for effective protection. Welder's glass is available at welding supply stores and can reduce harmful rays during the eclipse. However, avoid using damaged filters.

  5. Television or Planetarium Viewing: If you prefer not to risk direct viewing, opt for watching the solar eclipse on television or at a local planetarium.

What Not to Do

To ensure your safety, avoid the following practices:

  1. Smartphone Usage: Do not attempt to capture a solar eclipse using your smartphone camera, as this can inadvertently lead to direct sun exposure and potential eye damage.

  2. Camera Viewfinder: Never use the optical viewfinder of a camera to view a solar eclipse, as it can have the same damaging effect as direct viewing.

  3. Unsafe Filters: Avoid using any filters not specifically designed for solar eclipse viewing, including sunglasses, photographic negatives, and cheap telescope eyepiece filters. These items can increase the risk of eye damage.

In conclusion, while solar eclipses are captivating natural phenomena, they should be enjoyed with great caution to protect your precious eyesight. Always prioritize safety by using certified eclipse glasses or other recommended methods to observe these celestial events. Remember that your eye health is paramount, and seeking professional care if you experience any symptoms after viewing a solar eclipse is essential. Enjoy the magic of solar eclipses while safeguarding your vision!

David Greening David Greening, ABOC, BS(HONS) Ophth. Dispensing David is a licensed optician, and has been in optics since 2002. He attained his Bachelor of Science degree in Ophthalmic Dispensing in Kent, England (2014). He has extensive experience, having managed his own practice for many years prior to arriving at Astorino & Associates Eye Center. He is a licensed American optician (ABOC) and is well-recognized for his quality of service, attention to detail, and patient care. He left our practice January 2024.

You Might Also Enjoy...

We Offer Optos Retinal Imaging

Experience enhanced eye care with Optos imaging technology at our clinic. Our advanced evaluations detect diabetes, macular degeneration, melanoma, bleeding, hypertensive retinopathy, and glaucoma early, preventing vision loss.