Solar Eclipse Eye Safety

Staring at The Sun is Dangerous for Your Eyes

Looking at the sun without the right eye protection — for even a short time — can damage your retina permanently. It can even cause blindness, called solar retinopathy.

Keep in mind that ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, or homemade filters are not safe for looking at the sun.

There is only one safe way to look directly at the sun, whether during an eclipse or not: through special-purpose solar filters. These solar filters are used in “eclipse glasses” or in hand-held solar viewers. They must meet a very specific worldwide standard known as ISO 12312-2.

For information about where to get the proper eyewear or handheld viewers, check out the American Astronomical Society.

How to protect your eyes during an eclipse

  • Anyone planning to view the eclipse should wear a pair of solar viewing glasses or handheld solar viewers that contain solar filters. Always supervise children using solar viewing glasses or viewers with solar filters.
  • Using protective eyewear will allow observers to look directly at the sun during the eclipse. Sunglasses should not be used in place of solar viewing glasses – they will not protect your eyes from damage. Homemade filters are also not safe to use to look at the sun.
  • Always inspect your solar filter before you use it – if it is scratched or damaged in any way, do not use it.
  • Do not look at a partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, binoculars or telescope – even if you are wearing solar viewing glasses. A special filter is required to view without damage to your eyes.
  • Remember – no matter where you are to observe the eclipse, looking directly at the sun, especially when it is partially covered by the moon, can cause serious eye damage or even blindness.

How the Sun Can Burn Your Retina in Seconds

You may have seen how sunlight can start a fire when focused through a magnifying glass. The sun can do the same thing to your retina.

Your eye’s lens focuses light on the back of your eye so you can see clearly. But if you look directly at the sun, that focused light can burn your eye. The damage and vision loss can be permanent.

What to do if your child experiences vision loss after viewing an eclipse

  • If your child experiences vision loss after viewing a solar eclipse you should seek immediate attention from an ophthalmologist, a specialized eye doctor adept at identifying signs of solar burns on the retina. 
  • Diagnosis may involve clinical assessment or diagnostic tools like optical coherence tomography, a noninvasive imaging method capable of detecting solar-related retinal damage. Currently, observation is the primary course of action, as there is no definitive treatment. In some cases, partial vision recovery may occur over time.