Safety First Viewing Solar Eclipse

Unprotected viewing can damage vision

WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) -- All eyes will turn to the sky in less than two weeks for a rare sighting in the United States. A total eclipse of the sun will occur on August 21st and if you're not careful you could damage your vision.

A total solar eclipse is only visible from a small area on earth. Even though Pennsylvania will witness a partial solar eclipse, it can damage your sight unless you take precautions.

On a day with the rays of the sun shining brightly, Kelly Belanchik and her family have their sights set on August 21st when the afternoon sun will turn dark. "Hopefully we'll be around and able to see it and watch it," said the Dorrance Township woman.

"It" is a solar eclipse when the moon takes a pretty big bite out of the sun's disk. But don't let that darkened shadow dupe you into thinking you can just stare at it with the naked eye. "Looking directly at the sun can do a tremendous amount of damage to just about all parts of the eye," said Ophthalmologist Erik Kruger, MD with Eye Care Specialists in Kingston.

Even a prolonged peek can wreak havoc on your retina which has no feeling. Dr. Kruger compares the effects of what the sun can do through a magnifying glass. "That exact same kind of thing happens with your eye. If you stare at the sun, it will literally burn your retina, cause cataracts, permanent damage, permanent severe damage."

To prevent injury while enjoying the view, you're going to need some shades. "Dr. Kruger says if you're thinking about using plain old sunglasses to view the solar eclipse, think again. He recommends specialized glasses to reduce the threat of those harmful rays."

Unlike ordinary sunglasses, special eclipse shades will prevent the damaging effects of the ultraviolet ray spectrum. Dr. Kruger said, "It has to be a very specifically chosen filter that's in the glasses. Some of those can be purchased on line. Our office is giving away some of those."

Some eye opening advice for parents everywhere as they prepare for a rare view. "I think it's really cool to teach them about what it is and hopefully they enjoy the experience," said Ms. Belanchik.

For direct viewing, NASA says the special eclipse shades must meet an international standard and have the manufacturer's name and address printed on the glasses. Learn more about finding the right viewing glasses for you by clicking here.


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