Total solar eclipse
August 16, 2017 | by Jasmin K. Dhesi OD

For the first time since 1979, the total solar eclipse will be visible from the continental United States this month. On Monday, August 21, 2017, everyone in the U.S. will see a partial eclipse, with the moon covering part of the sun for several hours. The total solar eclipse will be visible for those people who live in a narrow path of communities across the U.S., starting in Madras, Oregon at 10:19 a.m. and lasting for about two minutes and 40 seconds. For the next hour and a half Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and North and South Carolina will experience full exposure to the total solar eclipse. The solar eclipse will end in Columbia, S.C. at 2:44 p.m. EDT. From there, the lunar shadow will leave the United States. You may use the NASA interactive eclipse map to find out exactly when totality will occur and how long it will last in each location.

This natural phenomena happens about every 18 months around the world, however, it is rarely completely visible from the U.S. and many people around the country are looking forward to participating in this unique event. If you are planning a trip to see the total solar eclipse or plan on experiencing the partial eclipse from the comfort of your home city, you will need to protect your eyes with solar viewing glasses to prevent damage. Sunglasses cannot be used in place of solar viewing glasses.

What Damage Can The Sun Do to My Eyes?

You never want to look directly at the sun without proper protection. Even during an eclipse when the sun is 99% covered by the moon, its rays are still strong enough to cause serious eye damage or blindness. The ultraviolet (UV) rays combined with the heat emitted by the sun can cause a sunburn of the eye, or even more permanent damage called solar retinopathy. Symptoms may include blurred vision, red eyes, a foreign body sensation or gritty feeling in the eyes, extreme sensitivity to light, and excessive tearing. If you believe you accidentally damaged your eyes due to the solar eclipse, schedule an appointment with an eye doctor.

How to Safely View the Solar Eclipse

Average sunglasses are not suitable to protect your eyes while viewing the solar eclipse. There are a few ways to view the solar eclipse without damaging your eyes:

  • Wear protective eclipse glasses. These glasses are specially designed with a thin layer of aluminum that helps combat the sun’s UV rays. To know if your glasses are authentic, look for brands that meet the ISO 12312-2 international safety standards for these products. When wearing the glasses everything should be dark except the sun. Eclipse glasses may be worn over your regular eyeglasses.
  • If your eclipse glasses are scratched or damaged, discard them. Always supervise children using eclipse glasses.
  • Stand still and put on your eclipse glasses before looking up at the sun. Look away from the sun before removing them.
  • Don’t look at the partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, binoculars or other optical device while using your eclipse glasses. The rays can damage the filter and your eyes.
  • The solar eclipse is only safe to view without eye protection during totality, when the sun is completely covered by the moon. Make sure to put on your glasses shortly before totality ends to ensure protection when the sun peeks out on the opposite side.
  • You can also create a pin-hole projector to view the solar eclipse without staring at the sun at all. Cover a piece of cardboard or card stock with aluminum foil, then poke a hole in the center with a sharp pin or nail. During the eclipse, hold the projector you created over a light colored piece of paper or light section of concrete until you see the small projection on your surface. When the eclipse occurs, you will see the hole that was created slowly turn completely black.

If you decided not to travel to the path of totality, you can participate in events from here. NASA will be live streaming the event starting at 9 a.m. The Seattle Times will also deliver live coverage from around the Northwest. The Museum of Flight will host a free viewing on the lawn from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. with free eclipse glasses to the first 1,000 people in attendance. Many other community centers and libraries across Seattle will offer viewing parties and free glasses while supplies last.

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Written By: Jasmin K. Dhesi OD