Although a solar eclipse is a beautiful thing, witnessing one and watching it with your bare eyes is a recipe ripe for total disaster. If you want to make the most out of your solar eclipse experience, you need to be prepared.
No matter what eclipse you’re watching, watching it with the naked eye is a major health hazard. As any optometrist will tell you, the human eye isn’t designed to stare directly at the sun. Although it isn’t recommended, try looking at the sun directly without squinting on a clear day. You’ll quickly realize that alongside a minor pain, your vision will be temporarily impaired for a little while.
Here’s what happens – the second you look up at the sun, your eyes are actually getting a sunburn. Sunlight isn’t just one form of light – it’s several. Visible light, infrared, and finally, UV light – the stuff we try to protect ourselves from with sunscreens as the rehabilitation of our planet’s ozone layer. UV light is harmful to your skin, but it’s even worse for the cells in your cornea. It also bounces back from reflective surfaces on the planet (especially snow and sand, hence the term “snow blindness”), causing further potential damage.
So how do you protect against it during an eclipse?
* First, try using a natural aperture. This involves using a hat or a piece of paper with pinholes, and then holding that above a clear surface so light will filter through the pinhole and cause a reflection on the surface below. This is the basic technique that was used for centuries in the past to create images of eclipses, and it’s what led to the creation of the camera obscura – the ancient camera.
* Second, try getting your hands on specialized eclipse safety glasses, such as those offered by Eclipse Glasses.
* Third, get a solar filter for your telescopes and cameras. Otherwise, you risk destroying or damaging your lens (and your eyes).
* Fourth, get yourself a solar telescope. These are telescopes specially built to look at a solar eclipse without consequence.
* Lastly, avoid using certain things to view a solar eclipse. According to NASA, the most dangerous culprits are: sunglasses, CDs or other highly reflective surfaces, smoked glass, medical x-ray film with images on them, and color film. In the end, the safest way to view an eclipse is through a pinhole projector – and it’s also a fun family project! But if you really can’t hold off seeing it for yourself, make sure you’ve got the right equipment.
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