On Monday, August 21, a partial solar eclipse will cross our path here in Scott County. Even though we won’t experience the total eclipse (you’d have to travel a few hours south or west of here for that view), it’s still an exciting phenomenon that is a rare occurrence. It can also be very dangerous to the eyes without special ways of viewing it.
The eclipse here will be about 95% complete, with the height at around 2:30 PM, but the event begins at about 1:00 PM and ends at 3:50 or a bit later, depending on where you live. Children and teens will understandably be tempted to look at the sun during the partial eclipse. Because many of them will be on their way home from school, talk to them ahead of time and warn them of the danger to their eyes.
Looking directly at the sun, even briefly, can cause serious eye damage. The only safe way to look at the eclipse is through special sunglasses. Even extremely dark sunglasses are not safe.
Here is important information from an article by the American Academy of Ophthalmology:
Staring at the sun for even a short time without wearing the right eye protection can damage your retina permanently. It can even cause blindness, called solar retinopathy.
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.
Keep in mind that ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, or homemade filters are not safe for looking at the sun.
Steps to follow for safely watching a solar eclipse:
*Carefully look at your solar filter or eclipse glasses before using them. If you see any scratches or damage, do not use them.
*Always read and follow all directions that come with the solar filter or eclipse glasses. Help children to be sure they use handheld solar viewers and eclipse glasses correctly.
*Before looking up at the bright sun, stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer. After glancing at the sun, turn away and remove your filter—do not remove it while looking at the sun.
*The only time that you can look at the sun without a solar viewer is during a total eclipse. When the moon completely covers the sun’s bright face and it suddenly gets dark, you can remove your solar filter to watch this unique experience. Then, as soon as the bright sun begins to reappear very slightly, immediately use your solar viewer again to watch the remaining partial phase of the eclipse.
*Never look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars or other similar devices. This is important even if you are wearing eclipse glasses or holding a solar viewer at the same time. The intense solar rays coming through these devices will damage the solar filter and your eyes.
*Talk with an expert astronomer if you want to use a special solar filter with a camera, a telescope, binoculars or any other optical device.
For information about where to get the proper eyewear or handheld viewers, check out the American Astronomical Society.
Some Scott County retailers are carrying the filtered sunglasses for very reasonable prices (as low as $1.00), but you’ll want to get them before they sell out. They have cardboard or paper frames.
Please talk to your children about viewing the eclipse safely. It’s a great opportunity to discuss the movement of earth and moon, along with the thrill of science.
Be safe, and learn.