Assessing the Dangers of an Eclipse

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Partial or full, it doesn’t matter what kind of eclipse happens way up in the sky — it is very dangerous for the human eye. Think of how powerful and fiery the sun is — then think of your tiny eyes and the complex process of images that are diluted through the retina and the messages that are then sent to the brain. While vision is one of the most amazing aspects of your body, the sun is the most amazing element in the universe. One’s going to win when it comes to a solar eclipse, and it sure isn’t us.

 Recently, British researchers warned citizens that they’d face permanent eye damage if they didn’t take strict precautions for an upcoming partial eclipse. A typical eclipse involves the moon blotting out parts of the sun. Although it is incredible to witness, it’s also very dangerous. While a lot of song lyrics and lines of poetry discuss staring at the sun, it is actually one of the worst things that you can do to your retinas. In fact, looking at the sun during an eclipse is can cause permanent damage to your eyesight — including blindness.

 There are several solar and lunar eclipses that occur every year. Some parts of the world will see them while others won’t. An eclipse poses no more of a danger than starting at the sun on any typical day does.

 The problem is due to the fact that eclipses are awe- inspiring and people all around the world want to see them — especially those individuals who are really into astronomy and natural phenomena. And they are pretty amazing — eclipses are unique to this planet because it’s our planet’s moon that is crossing the path of the sun.

 But we have to remember that ultraviolet wavelengths radiate to the earth and cause trauma to the retina. Simple environmental exposure to UV rays causes aging around the eyes and contributes to cataracts. But actually viewing the sun straight on without taking any precautions — like during an eclipse — can actually burn your retina.

 It is never safe to look at an eclipse — even if the moon is covering 99% of the sun that last sliver of light is still so intense it can burn your eyes. It’s extremely important that you mind the power of the sun in order to save your vision. You can buy solar filters from specialty shops or use the much cheaper method of projecting the image onto a screen, piece of paper, or your own hand. Get a card, poke pinholes in it, and then look at the reflection it projects of the eclipse. This will protect you from the sun, as you are looking through the hole onto something behind it. Remember — sunglasses, film, and smoked glass can’t protect your eyes.

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