MIAMI - Everyone in South Florida will be at risk for eye damage during the Aug. 21 partial solar eclipse. The intense solar radiation coming from the bright crescent of the sun can cause long-term or permanent blindness.
Without the proper protection, the sunlight can trigger a series of chemical reactions in the retina, a delicate layer at the back of the eyeball containing light-sensitive cells. Seconds of exposure are enough for retinal sunburn.
Unlike a painful sunburn, the observer won't feel the retina burn. Hours can pass before someone can assess the extent of the damage. An observer can have trouble reading. There could be some difficulty recognizing faces. And the damage can be permanent or temporary, but there is no way to know.
"It's really important to resist the urge to look even momentarily, directly in the sun because you have no real sense of time," says Dr. Christopher Quinn, president of the American Optometric Association. "What you think may be a glancing look could be a more substantial amount of time, and that can result in permanent damage."
The American Astronomical Society recommends proper protection for both eyes. Sunglasses are not enough to prevent damage. The protection needs to be made out of polyester film coated with aluminum or black polymer. The filters need to be in good condition.
The glasses need to be of good quality. Avoid old glasses. The ISO 12312-2 certification, the international safety standard, was adopted in 2015. Observers need to look out for scratches, bubbles or dents. With the possibility of fraud, the American Astronomical Society provided a list of reputable vendors and manufacturers.
Observing the eclipse with a camera, a binocular or a telescope also has its risks. Dr. Ivan Schwab, a spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, warns that the solar protection has to be over the front end of the device.
NASA guide with safety tips
Here is a list of durable eclipse glasses
If you want a free pair of Space Science Institute glasses, visit a public library. They will be distributing about two million across the country.
How to make a cereal box eclipse viewer
American Academy of Ophthalmology
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