Feeling in the dark about the Solar Eclipse?

Recently I've seen a lot of questions regarding the upcoming Solar Eclipse and I wanted to take a few moments to answer a couple of those questions for you today! 

  1. Why is watching a Solar Eclipse potentially so dangerous?
    • Normally, if we were to look directly at the sun, our pupils would constrict to limit the amount of light exposure to the back of the eye (or the retina) and our eyes would start hurting so we would quickly look away. In the case of a solar eclipse, as the moon is moving across to block the sun, it is darker outside so our pupils don’t constrict as much, thereby allowing more light to enter our eyes. Additionally, our eyes don’t hurt as much so we stare at the partially obstructed sun longer, creating a perfect opportunity for Solar Retinopathy, the fancy medical term for a burn to the center of the retina from directly focused light through the eyes’ natural lenses.
    • While Solar Retinopathy may not necessarily lead to blindness, it can cause a blurring in the center of vision that can last the rest of your lifetime, so its extra important to make sure our curious little loves are properly prepared to witness this awesome solar event.
  2. How do we watch the Solar Eclipse safely? 
    • With eclipse glasses or filters that meet ISO 12312-2 safety standards
      • Please note, it is important NOT to take these off while viewing the eclipse. As any parent who has ever tried to put sunglasses on a child can attest, this may prove difficult for younger children.
      • To circumvent their attempts at removal, you can use a paper bag with a hole cut out to fit the area of the approved eclipse glasses/filters, glue or tape them to the inside of the bag and have your kids put the bags over their heads before you go outside. Voila! Much more difficult for small hands to remove.
      • It may be too late to order your approved filters as a lot of vendors have already sold out, but do not fear, see below for more safe viewing options!
    • View the eclipse indirectly with the pinhole technique or optical projection
      • While maybe not exactly what you envisioned, this is still a pretty neat way to view the eclipse, and very easy to do. In fact, this is how I watched a solar eclipse when I was in elementary school, and I still remember it vividly to this day.
      • Just follow these instructions!
    • Watch from a local observatory
      • For those of you in Baton Rouge, Highland Park Observatory will be open and selling solar viewers to adolescents and adults for $2.00 beginning at 9:00 am. 
      • See here for details.

For any other questions, the NASA website has a wealth of information on this topic.

On a side note, is anyone else singing “Total Eclipse of the Heart” on repeat in their mind? Please tell me I’m not alone!

Happy Viewing!