Science

Published on April 24th, 2017 | by Guest

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Solar Eclipse 2017 – How to Watch It Safely

When the moon comes in front of the sun and covers it, the event is called a solar eclipse. While partial solar eclipses, where the moon partly obscures the sun are more common, a total solar eclipse is relatively rarer. 21 August 2017 will be the first opportunity for Americans to watch a total solar eclipse since 1979, and the next one will take place only in 2024. According to NASA, on that date, the day will turn into night for up to 2 minutes and 40 seconds making it possible for people in the path of the eclipse to not only be able to witness the solar corona that is otherwise hidden but also the brighter planets and stars in the sky.

Safety Alert

A total solar eclipse is truly one of the most awesome natural phenomena and as the event occurs very sporadically, it draws a lot of interest from astronomers as well as the general public. However, it is very important for the common people to know the dangers of viewing the solar eclipse without taking proper precautions, and also how to view it properly and safely. Strangely enough, even though you would have been told by everybody around you to never view the total solar eclipse with your naked eyes, expert bodies like NASA, American Astronomical Society (AAS), the National Science Foundation as well as the American Academy of Optometry say that it is perfectly okay to do. However, before you rush out to gaze at the sun, know that this is true but only for the duration of the total solar eclipse when the sun is completely hidden by the moon.

It is vital to appreciate that viewing the solar eclipse without the right eye protection can lead to loss of vision that is permanent. The damage can occur extremely rapidly without even you being aware of it since there’s no pain involved. You will only realize that your vision has been affected after the eclipse and tragically there is no available treatment. Children are most vulnerable as their eyes are especially sensitive.

How to Protect Your Eyes during a Solar Eclipse

Trying to observe the solar eclipse 2017 without adequate protection can cause really serious harm to your eyes and you may even become blind. Perhaps the safest way of observing the progress of the eclipse is a pinhole camera, a relatively simple device that can be easily made at home, however, this is an indirect way of viewing and may not live up to most people’s expectations.

The safest way of directly witnessing the solar eclipse is by using lenses that are specifically made for this purpose with solar filters that are infinitely darker than normal sunglasses. In fact, the glasses are so dark that nothing else apart from the sun is visible through them. According to NASA and other professional bodies, users should ensure that the eclipse glasses used by them meet the ISO 12312-2 standard that is the latest applicable standard. There are many glasses available that do not meet this standard.

What to Specifically Avoid

Remember that there are no shortcuts to viewing eclipses and no effective alternatives too. Most people make the mistake of assuming that sunglasses are good enough for viewing solar eclipses but even the darkest of sunglasses will not afford the protection that is required. Unsafe eye protection includes exposed color or black and white film without any silver, smoked glass and x-ray films. While these look dark, they still transmit very large quantities of infrared radiation that can burn your retinas. Just because you do not feel any discomfort when viewing the sun does not mean that your eyes will escape damage. Also, remember never to use any type of magnification device when you are viewing the sun.

Conclusion

A total solar eclipse is indeed a truly wondrous natural event and those who are interested should not miss out on it this year as the next one in America will only be seven years later. Wonderful, as it may be, you should remember to take extreme precaution for viewing it to prevent eye irreversible damage. Ensure that the eclipse glasses you’re using conform to the latest standards, and are free of damage like scratches. Children must invariably be supervised.

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