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Shining a light on solar eclipse safety

Eye health professionals are promoting sun safety as excitement builds in the lead up to the first ‘total’ solar eclipse to cross the US in 99 years

Woman in solar eclipse protecting sunglasses

Sky gazers are being urged to look after their eyes as expectation builds ahead of the first total solar eclipse to cross US shores in close to a century.

US residents will witness day become night on 21 August, with a swathe of darkness passing from coast to coast. A partial eclipse will also be visible in parts of the UK.

However, the National Eye Institute (NEI) is reminding astronomy enthusiasts to include sun safety in their solar eclipse preparations.

NEI’s Rachel Bishop told OT that people should never look directly at the sun or an eclipse.

“The sun’s rays can damage the retina and lead to permanent vision loss,” she emphasised.

Ms Bishop highlighted that even very dark sunglasses are not capable of preventing damage to the eyes from looking directly at the sun.

A solar eclipse can be viewed safely by looking through special-purpose solar filters.

“The only safe way to watch a solar eclipse without a filter is by turning your back to the sun and watching a projection. Devices such as pinhole projectors allow you to watch an indirect image, which is safe and still exciting,” Ms Bishop explained.

NASA will be producing a live video stream of the eclipse.

Image credit: US Army/Mark Rankin