Solar eclipse: Keep your eyes on safety

  • Published
  • By Maj. Carli Murphy and Kristen Van Wert
  • 88th Medical Group

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – On April 8, a total solar eclipse will cross North America, passing over Mexico, the United States (including Ohio) and Canada.

A total solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the sun and Earth, completely blocking the sun’s face. The sky will darken as if it were dawn or dusk. Dayton is in the totality path and will experience darkness for 2 minutes and 43 seconds beginning at 3:09 p.m.

This event is rare. On average, one happens somewhere on Earth only once every 18 months. Only 21 total solar eclipses have ever crossed the lower 48 states.

The last total solar eclipse visible in Ohio was in 1806. The next won’t happen again until 2099.

The sun emits immense energy, including harmful ultraviolet and infrared radiation. During a solar eclipse, when the moon partially or fully blocks the sun’s rays, there’s a temptation to look directly at the sun.

However, doing so, even briefly, can cause solar retinopathy—a condition where the retina’s light-sensitive cells are damaged. This is why it’s imperative the right eye protection be worn.

Eclipse glasses are NOT regular sunglasses; regular sunglasses, no matter how dark, are not safe for viewing the sun. Safe solar viewers are thousands of times darker and must comply with the ISO 12312-2 international standard.

In conjunction with the American Optometric Association, Wright-Patterson Medical Center’s Optometry Clinic has essential safety tips when preparing to view the eclipse:

  • There is only one safe way to look directly at the sun, and that is with approved special-purpose solar filters in eclipse glasses.
  • Inspect eclipse glasses before using. If you see any scratches or damage, do not use them.
  • Always read and follow all directions that come with the solar filter or eclipse glasses. Help children use handheld solar viewers and eclipse glasses correctly.
  • The only time you can look at the sun without a solar viewer is during a total eclipse. When the moon completely covers the sun and it suddenly gets dark, you can remove your solar filter to watch this unique experience. Then, as soon as the bright sun begins to reappear, immediately use your solar viewer again to watch the remaining partial phase of the eclipse.
  • Homemade solutions aren’t safe: Regular sunglasses, homemade filters, welding goggles or improvised devices like CDs do not offer sufficient protection. These materials don’t adequately block out the intense solar radiation and can lead to severe eye damage.

Remember, your eyes are precious, and protecting them should be a top priority during a solar eclipse. Damage symptoms can occur within a few hours and up to a few days after direct exposure to the sun.

If you experience blurred vision, blind spots, increased light sensitivity, altered-color vision or visual distortion after viewing the eclipse, contact your local eye-care provider (optometry or ophthalmology) for a comprehensive eye exam. Appointments can be made at Wright-Patterson Medical Center by contacting the appointment line at 937-522-2778. 

By following these guidelines and using proper protective measures, you can enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime event safely and responsibly.