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The total solar eclipse on Monday, April 8th, 2024, will draw multitudes outdoors to witness a rare, celestial wonder that will not occur again in North America until August 2044. As the moon completely blocks the face of the sun (total) across Mexico, 15 U.S. states and small portion of eastern Canada, and partially blocks it across all other continental U.S. states (annular), the opportunity to witness the 2024 solar eclipse is within reach for many across the continent. Whether you’ve planned for months or drive through the night to experience the April 8th solar eclipse, eye professionals cannot emphasize one critical advisory enough — It is never safe to gaze directly at the sun. Even when the sun is partly or mostly covered by the moon during a partial or total solar eclipse, failure to take the proper precautions can result in temporary to irreversible damage to the eyes and one’s long-term vision.

  • Looking up at a solar eclipse is safely done only through using certified solar filter glasses or a pinhole projector.
    1) Certified solar filters (ISO 12312-2 certified) enable wearers to look at the sun for short periods during an eclipse. They are thousands of times darker than normal, even dark sunglasses that cannot protect your vision if looking at the sun.

    ** Certified solar filter glasses selling at $10 a pair can be purchased at the UNC Optical Shop, located on the 2nd floor of UNC Kittner Eye Center at the intersection of NC Highway 54 and Farrington Road in east Chapel Hill (2226 Nelson Highway, Suite 200 / Chapel Hill, NC 27517). There is free parking in front of and behind the building. **

  • 2) A pinhole viewer projects an image of the sun onto another surface, like paper, a wall or pavement. Just the projected image, not the sun through the pinhole, is safe to look at throughout the eclipse. Reference the American Association of Ophthalmology (AAO)’s “How to Make a Pinhole Camera” page for instructions on making one with simple household items for another means of safely watching the eclipse.
  • Never look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera lens, telescope, binoculars, or a handheld mirror, even when wearing eclipse glasses simultaneously. Intense solar rays coming through these means of viewing and reflection can damage the protective filter in your solar glasses and put your eyes at risk.
  • At any point during an eclipse, resist the urge to look directly up at the sun if not using safe means of viewing.  Some areas expecting larger crowds within the eclipse’s path of totality acknowledge very low odds of cell service or power outages. A surge in cell use by those sharing in the experience, as well as a diminished generation of solar power megawatts in power grids throughout the sun’s path of totality could potentially, yet not likely, cause either occurrence. Recognize either of these unlikely occurrences as an infrastructural matter.
  • If one looks directly at the sun with the naked eye or with unapproved devices such as binoculars without proper protection for even less than a minute,  the macular tissue (central retina) will experience photochemical injury from the sun’s burning, concentrated solar rays, causing solar retinopathy (a.k.a., photic retinopathy). In mild cases of solar retinopathy, symptoms and vision problems can resolve on their own. In more severe cases, the damage can be irreversible. To see how rapidly the sun can burn the retina in seconds, view the American Association of Ophthalmology (AAO)’s “How the Sun Can Burn Your Retina in Seconds” video.

Whether you are planning to experience this exciting April 8th event moving across North America as a total or partial eclipse (Reference: Live tracking, recognize how easily and quickly intense solar rays can damage your vision.

Play it safe and reference the AAO’s Solar Eclipse Eye Safety article for more detailed, preventive tips on safe eclipse viewing!