Most people know not to look directly at the sun. When you were young you probably used a magnifying glass to concentrate the sunlight on a piece of paper to light it on fire. Exactly the same thing happens to our eye when we look at the sun. The eye’s lens concentrates the sunlight onto our retina at the back of the eye. This light is so intense it kills the cells in our retina. Initially this burn is painless. It takes hours before you will feel the symptoms of this, and by then the damage is already done.
On this Wednesday, the 14th of November, between 5.56am and 7.59am, we will witness a partial solar eclipse. In our everyday lives we don’t usually look at the sun. During a solar eclipse people often look at the sun as it is exciting and beautiful. However, it is very dangerous to do this. It is not even safe to look at an eclipse through a camera, binoculars or a telescope without proper solar filters.
So how do you get to witness a solar eclipse without damaging your eyes?
You can look at an eclipse if you use ‘solar filters’ or ‘number 14 welder’s goggles’. These can be purchased from some hardware stores or from welding supply shops. Although, even with these for protection, it is not safe to look at the eclipse for too long. The safest way to witness an eclipse is to look at it indirectly using a piece of paper. Cut a small hole or pinhole in a piece of paper. Hold the paper up and the hole will cast a circular shadow onto a wall, the ground or onto another piece of paper. This will give you an image of what the eclipse looks like without doing any damage to your retinas. Other than that, just wait and look at the photos that professional photographers take with the proper equipment and filters.
Nicky Carr is our full time optometrist and is also our practice owner.