If you’ve ever been told not to look directly at the sun, that was sage advice. Although you may never have heard the words before, solar retinopathy is a rare condition in which the retina (in the back of the eye – some compare it to the film in a camera) is “burnt” by the extreme rays of the sun.
When we stare at something, we are directing our eyes’ foveae towards an object. The fovea is the part of the retina responsible for creating our perception of color as well as fine detail. Damage to this part of the retina by solar intensity can be devastating and permanent to both color vision and to acuity.
A danger with solar eclipses, like the one happening next Monday the 21st of August, is that you may be enticed to stare directly at the sun without having proper eye protection. In order to protect yourself, you should get sunglasses that are officially sanctioned by the American Astronomical Society (AAS). If you’ve already purchased “eclipse” sunglasses and aren’t sure if they are safe, check to see if they have “ISO” printed on them – specifically ISO 12312-2 – but we still recommend you check the AAS website, as some sellers are falsely adding the ISO information to their products.
Keep in mind that these are not your ordinary sunglasses. They should block out so much light that you can’t see anything through them in ordinary light. While we don’t recommend that you stare at the sun to test that the sun is the only thing bright enough to get through the lenses, the sun is the only thing you should see.
A few other safety tips for you:
If you are somewhere where you can and want to enjoy the eclipse, keep yourself safe with proper eye protection. Enjoy the show!