Depending on where you live, you’ll get the chance to see a total solar eclipse on Monday, which will last just a couple of minutes and is safe to watch. (It starts at about 10:20 a.m. in Oregon and at 2:40 p.m. in South Carolina.) But more than an hour before and after the moon moves between the Earth and the sun a partial solar eclipse will occur over all of continental U.S., and health experts are warning us not to look directly at the sun — even very briefly — without the correct eye protection during that time.
Doing that can damage your retina, a light-sensitive part of your eye that transmits what you see to your brain. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you might not feel a thing, but a few hours later your central vision might be gone, resulting in only side vision remaining, or your color vision might be altered.
Solar eclipse safety tips
So what can you do if you want to participate in Monday’s big event but don’t want to hurt your eyes? Here’s what to know.
Don’t use your regular sunglasses. No matter how dark they are, they won’t give you enough protection because they still transmit too much sunlight.
Don’t use an unfiltered camera, including your smart phone, telescope, or binoculars. You’ll need to add a certified solar filter to those devices to safely look at the sun.
Do use special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses.” The American Astronomical Society says virtually all vendors are sold out, so if you haven’t already bought them, it’s probably too late. Consumer Reports warns that some sites are taking advantage of the demand for eclipse glasses by selling counterfeit ones that may not protect your eyes. Even though a seller may claim that its glasses meet the international safety standard for solar filters—ISO-12312-2—anyone can print that code on their product. If you do have eclipse glasses that you’ve purchased through a trusted vendor, make sure they are free of scratches. If you wear eyeglasses, put the eclipse glasses over them, says The Lighthouse Guild, a nonprofit vision and healthcare organization.
Do use welding glasses, which can be found at a local welder’s supply store, but only if they’re made with No. 14 welder’s glass. A lighter shade of glass isn’t safe. Do not use if there are any scratches or damage to the glass.
Do consider making a simple and inexpensive pinhole projector to indirectly (and safely) view the eclipse. Follow the instructions here.
Do check out NASA’s interactive map to find out when the total solar eclipse begins and ends and whether you will be in its path.
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Sue Byrne, M.S., is a senior editor at Health Central. She helped launch its sister website, HealthAfter50.com, in 2016 after spending more than a dozen years at Consumer Reports, where she was a senior editor covering health and food topics, from diet supplements to the Zika virus. She has also served as a writer and editor at Reader’s Digest, Parade Publications, and daily newspapers in Illinois and New York.