There is no safe way to look directly at the sun or a solar eclipse.
On August 21st, 2017, we will experience a total solar eclipse in parts of North America. I wrote an article for you. ASE Article on the 2017 Eclipse.
Having been told all my life to avoid looking directly at the sun, I decided to do a little research on safe eclipse viewing. I consulted an ophthalmologist and a senior retina specialist. Their adamant advice is that there is no safe way to look directly at the sun – even with special glasses!
The damage caused by looking directly at the sun is called solar retinopathy. Harmful radiation from the sun enters the eye through the pupil and is concentrated onto the light sensitive retina. This can burn and destroy the cells that enable you to see. Your retina may be damaged without you feeling pain. In mild cases, symptoms may clear up, in severe cases, there can be permanent damage.
During the eclipse, we are all going to be tempted to look at the sun, as is disappears and reappears. Here are some ways to ‘see’ it without looking at the sun.
First, open the camera on your phone and flip it to the ‘selfie’ side. Look away from the sun and into your screen. Position the sun behind you and you will be able to ‘watch’ the eclipse safely.
There is some online chatter about damaging your smart phone camera by aiming it at the sun. The advice is to set it on ‘auto’. You can also use the lens from eclipse glasses to protect your smart phone camera.
Camera with a viewing screen method:
You can create a similar set-up with a camera that has a screen instead of a direct viewfinder. Face away from the sun and hold the camera in a position to ‘see’ the eclipse behind you and then keep your eyes on the screen. Do NOT look at the sun through a viewfinder.
Smartphone and camera photography of the eclipse:
A benefit of the smartphone and camera screen viewing methods is that you can photograph the eclipse as it happens. You might want to practice at sunset some night. NASA has advice on smartphone photography of the eclipse.
Old school science project with a box – this allows you to view the projected image of the sun. Punch a small pinhole in one side and position the box to let the sunlight go through the pinhole and fall onto the opposite side of the box (which acts as your screen). The image will be inverted. The further the screen is from the pinhole, the larger the projected image will be. The image will be brighter when the screen is close to the pinhole.
Note: You should have your back to the sun. Do not look through the pinhole. The sun comes over your shoulder, through the pinhole and you see the projected image – away from the sun. DIY instructions to make a pinhole projector.
Your back should be to the sun and the eclipse.
Eclipse glasses, even the ones that claim to have special filters? The ophthalmologist and retina specialist I asked rolled their eyes and asked if I would risk my eyesight using lenses surrounded by cardboard.
Make sure to share this important article with your friends and family.