A total solar eclipse is one of the best astronomical events people can experience — but it can cause permanent eye damage for unprepared viewers.
On Monday, August 21, the sky will darken as the moon passes in front of the sun.
Optometrist Michael Pickering says viewing a solar eclipse without the proper eye protection is more harmful than looking at the sun on a normal day.
"One of the reasons is most of the visible light from the sun is actually going to be blocked out during the eclipse. It fools our pupils into dilating which allows more of the harmful ultraviolet light to get through," Dr. Pickering said.
On a sunny day, most people's eyes would water and squint and their instinct will be to look away from the sun says Dr. Pickering. However, that won't be the case during the solar eclipse. People will be able to look directly at the sun because it won't appear to be as bright, which he says makes it dangerous.
"The suns rays are focused on the back of our eyes particularly in a region called the macula, where the vision is most sensitive," said Dr. Pickering "The concentration of ultraviolet light is in the worst place possible."
Dr. Pickering compared it to getting an intense sunburn in the most critical and dangerous area of the eye.
Dr. Pickering said signs of eye damage include a loss of central vision acuity and the object of regard to the center of the person's focus would become blurry. He added that people probably will not notice if their eyes have been damaged until several hours after the eclipse.
People who plan on viewing the eclipse should make sure their solar glasses or solar shield meet the International Organization of Standardization's (ISO) safety standards.
People can also safely view the eclipse with a cereal box pinhole projector.
Dr. Pickering said people should never use sunglasses to view a solar eclipse.
Because the ArkLaTex will only be able to see the moon cover up about 80 percent of the sun, people viewing the eclipse in the area will have to wear eye protection the entire time.
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