A tourist watches a solar eclipse v eclipse-viewing glasses in 2009 in Varanasi, India.(Image credit: Pete Niesen / Shutterstock.com)
People throughout the United states will have the opportunity to check out a full solar eclipse on Aug. 21, the first time the spectacle to be viewable indigenous the continent U.S. Since 1979. If it might be tempting to brush off warnings around looking up in ~ this eclipse bare-eyed, don"t: The irradiate of one eclipse really can damage your eye — despite warnings of complete blindness may be overstated.

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The condition is dubbed solar retinopathy, and it occurs once bright irradiate from the sunfloods the retinaon the ago of the eyeball. The retina is house to the light-sensing cells that make vision possible. When they"re over-stimulated by sunlight, they relax a overwhelming of communication chemicals the can damages the retina. This damages is often painless, so human being don"t realize what they"re doing to their vision.

Solar retinopathy deserve to be brought about by staring at the sun (regardless the its phase), but couple of people can stand come look straight at our nearest star for very long without pain. That does occur occasionally — clinical journals record cases in which civilization high on drugs have actually stared in ~ the sun for long periods that time, leading to serious damage. Adherents that sun-worshipping spiritual sects are also victims. In 1988, because that example, Italian ophthalmologists treated 66 civilization for solar retinopathy ~ a sun-staring ritual.

Butduring a solar eclipse, more people room at risk. With the sun virtually covered, it"s comfortable come stare, and also protective reflexes choose blinking and also pupil contraction room a lot much less likely to absent in than on a common day. Also pets are fragile to eye damages from looking at an eclipse, despite they don"t tend to look straight at the sun. Even so, if they"re v you during your eclipse outing, her furry friends need to wear protective glasses together well.

Damaged eyes

Early observers that astronomy sometimes uncovered out about solar retinopathy the difficult way. Cutting board Harriot, that observed sunspots in 1610 but did not publish his discovery, created in 1612 the after the town hall the sun his "sight was dim for an hour." Oxford astronomer man Greaves was once quoted as saying the after sun observations, he experienced afterimages that looked favor a flock of crows in his vision. In the many famous situation of all,Isaac Newtontried looking in ~ the sunlight in a mirror, basically blinding self for three days and experiencing afterimages because that months.

Scientists don"t have actually a an excellent bead ~ above the prevalence of eye damage after a solar eclipse. In one study, carried out in 1999 ~ a solar eclipse visible in Europe, 45 patient with possible solar retinopathy showed up in ~ an eye clinic in Leicester in the uk after viewing the eclipse. Forty were shown to have some sort of damages or symptom of damage; five of those had visible changes in your retina.

Twenty of the patient reported eye pain, while another 20 reported difficulties with vision. The the latter group, 12 reported the their sight had actually returned to normal seven months later, but four can still check out the ghosts that the damages in your visual field, such as a crescent-shaped spot visible in dim light.

"Our collection demonstrates that, contradictory to popular belief, the majority of world with eclipse retinopathy room nottotally blinded," the researchers wrote in 2001 in the journal The Lancet. However, castle warned, earlier post-eclipse studies had turned up more severe problems in patients, suggesting that extensive media warnings no to look in ~ the eclipsing sunlight may have prevented an ext damage throughout recent eclipses.

for sure eclipse viewing

Research also suggests that while a many the damage may heal, some might be permanent. One 1995 study adhered to 58 patients who sustained eye damages after viewing a 1976 eclipse in Turkey. Healing emerged during the very first month ~ the eclipse, the researchers reported in the newspaper Graefe"s Archive for Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology, however by 18 months, whatever damages remained was permanent up to 15 year later.

So, while it could be tough to go entirely blind by looking at an eclipse, doing therefore without proper protection can leave a long-lasting stain on your vision. The onlysafe means to check out an eclipse, according to NASA, is to use specially designed sun filters, often easily accessible at telescope stores, or come wear No. 14 welder"s glasses, easily accessible at welding specialty stores.Pinhole viewers— basically a feet in a item of cardboard or record — can likewise be provided to see the eclipse indirect by spreading a zero of the sun on the floor or top top a screen.

REMEMBERnot come stare directly at the sun without safety eyewear throughout the Aug. 21 full solar eclipse. If friend don"t have certified eclipse viewers,you can also make a pinhole camera viewerthat will enable you to watch the eclipse without looking in ~ the sun directly.

Editor"s Note: This write-up was very first published in 2012 and also updated because that the good American Solar Eclipse in 2017.

Originally published on Live Science.

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Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer because that Live Science. She consists the human being of human and also animal behavior, as well as paleontology and also other science topics. Stephanie has actually a Bachelor of arts in psychology native the university of southern Carolina and also a graduate certificate in science communication from the college of California, Santa Cruz. She has ducked under a glacier in Switzerland and also poked warm lava with a pole in Hawaii. Stephanie hails from east Tennessee, the global center because that salamander diversity. Monitor Stephanie ~ above Google+.