On Monday, we will be able to witness the rarest and spectacular cosmic event of our generation. The Great American Eclipse of 2017 will take place Monday with its path of totality extending across the United States from Salem, Oregon all the way to Charleston, South Carolina.
The path of totality is a 70-mile wide trail where a full, total eclipse can be viewed. The solar eclipse will be unlike anything you have seen before.
The sky will go completely dark, you will be able to see the stars, the temperature will drop, and you can also see the sun’s corona, an aura of plasma that surrounds the sun. In the 93436 zip code, a partial solar eclipse will be visible. The eclipse in the Lompoc Valley will peak at 10:17:26 a.m. and the moon will obscure approximately 64 percent of the sun. Because this solar eclipse may be the only one some people will ever witness in their lifetime, it is anticipated to be a highly followed event. This particular eclipse is rare because it is the first time the path of totality crosses the continental United States from coast to coast since June 8, 1918 – nearly 100 years!
What is Eclipse Blindness, Also Known as Solar Retinopathy?
Although this anticipated astronomical event is very exciting, it can also be extremely harmful to your vision unless proper precautions are taken before viewing.
We all know that you should never look directly at the sun. But even during an eclipse, the sun’s light can cause permanent damage to the eyes, which is referred to as “eclipse blindness” or retinal burns, also known as solar retinopathy. Exposure to direct sunlight can cause permanent and irreversible damage to the retina. The retina is a thin layer of tissue that lines the back of the eye on the inside. Light rays are focused onto the retina through the cornea, pupil, and lens. The retina then converts the light into neural signals and sends these signals on to the brain for visual recognition.
Take Precautions for Safe Viewing
So how do you safely watch this wonder? The safest way is to view the eclipse through solar filter glasses that meet the worldwide standard known as ISO 12312-2. These solar glasses must be in perfect condition with no scratches and should be less than three years old. The only time that you can safely look at the sun without a solar filter is if you are within the path of totality, and the moon completely covers the bright surface of the sun and it suddenly gets dark. As soon as the sun begins to reappear, you must immediately use the solar filter again to watch the remaining phase of the eclipse.
When viewing the eclipse from other areas outside of the 70-mile totality range, such as in the Lompoc Valley, it is not safe to look at the sun at any point with the naked eye. It is also important to remember to never view an eclipse through regular sunglasses, or an unfiltered telescope, camera, or binoculars, as this can cause severe retinal damage as well. Make certain to educate and supervise small children, as young eyes are more susceptible to vision damage.
Let’s be clear about this: Be sure to protect your eyes, as well as your child’s eyes, as children are particularly susceptible to solar retinopathy.
If solar retinopathy does occur, unfortunately, the symptoms are painless and may not be noticeable until several hours after the damage has already been done. These symptoms include sore eyes, watery eyes, distortion of objects, or a blind spot at the center of your vision. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your eye doctor as soon as possible. Keep these preventative tips in mind, keep a close eye on children, and enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse!
For more information on how to protect vision during a solar eclipse, please call Prevent Blindness at 805-963-1648, or visit https://californiaretina.com.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, also has an extensive website of information about the eclipse, at https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov.