Eclipse Safety Goes Beyond Your Eyes

For the millions of Americans expected to view the solar eclipse on August 21st, safety is a top priority. After all, you will be staring at the sun.

"If you look at the sun, after about two or three seconds, it's going to be uncomfortable to your eye," says Dr. James Fleming, the director at the Hamilton Eye Institute in Memphis.

The easiest way to be safe is to get a pair of eclipse glasses, which are different than sunglasses. They are specially designed to block out enough light to view a solar eclipse safely. Without them, your eyes can be in real trouble.

"The light is focused on the back part of the eye, the retina. It can burn what is called the fovea," says Dr. Fleming. "If you burn this long enough and hard enough, you'll have permanent vision loss associated with this."

Dr. Fleming also warns that being impaired can be dangerous while viewing the eclipse, especially if you lack eclipse glasses.

"Whether it's under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they tend to gaze at it and look at it for an extended period of time and that can cause significant burns," says Dr. Fleming.

But it's not just your eyes. Some cameras can also be damaged if exposed to the sun's intense light.

"Something with a telephoto lens on it where the sun is magnified before it gets to the sensor. That's what you've got to be careful about," says Ric Honey, president of the Memphis Astronomical Society.

You can buy a solar filter to protect your camera or you can even buy solar filter film and make your own. Some cameras don't need a filter, but that comes with a big trade-off.

"Your off the shelf point and shoot, your camera in your phone, all those cameras. They're going to be fine," says Honey. "[But] you're not going to see much."

For people taking photos, remember not to look through the viewfinder of your camera, but instead use the camera's screen.

"What we want people to do is enjoy seeing the eclipse of the sun, but to do it very safely," says Dr. Fleming.


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