Do’s and Don’ts for Experiencing the Solar Eclipse in Bradenton, FL

At the Eye Center, Inc. we completely understand that many of our patients would like to witness this once-in-a-lifetime total eclipse.   Especially for young students, a solar eclipse offers a unique opportunity to witness basic principles of science and mathematics in action, so it’s an important teaching tool for young minds who might be encouraged to pursue STEM education as a result of experiencing an eclipse.

As your eye doctors, we encourage you to SAFELY watch the solar eclipse, but it is our responsibility to make you aware of the real risks associated with viewing this phenomenon, and offer you some safety suggestions.  

It’s important to know that the risks are real.  Researchers who documented solar eclipses in 1966, 1979, and most recently in 1999 recorded dozens of cases of eclipse-related eye injuries.  These injuries were caused by not wearing proper eye protection.  In one case, 52 injuries were reported and within six months, only half of those eyes were restored to 20/20 vision.  Most notably (and perhaps not surprisingly…), “males under age 20 were more likely to sustain eclipse-related eye injuries and that the patients were aware of the dangers of unprotected viewing of the eclipse but chose not to comply with warning messages.”

We hope you’ll find these Do’s and Don’ts useful on Monday, August 21, 2017 as North America witnesses this amazing astronomical phenomenon.

    1. Don’t stare directly at the sun without proper protection.

This is pretty basic advice that your mama would echo, but it’s the most important. If you don’t have *approved* solar eclipse glasses, do not look directly at the partially-eclipsed sun.  And folks, unless you’re traveling to a part of the map in the path of totality (when the moon will 100% cover the face of the sun), here in the Bradenton, FL area, we’re not going to see totality at any point.  So according to the experts at NASA, since we’re outside the path of totality, “you must always use a safe solar filter to view the sun directly.”  

If you purchased solar glasses in advance, make sure your frames have the ISO 12312-2 marking on the side which means they meet safe sun exposure standards.

2.  Don’t use unapproved filters to view the solar eclipses

We’ve heard that in Manatee County, solar eclipse glasses are now sold out, and it’s probably too late to order online so if you missed out, don’t try to wing it.  We strongly advise against the use of:  photographic film of any kind, sunglasses, food wrappers, smoked glass, space blankets (whatever those are).. Oh, and if your grandfather still has his solar glasses from 1979, inspect them extremely carefully.  Any signs of damage, scuffing or scratches, and these should be tossed out.

3.  Do DIY it

The most effective way to safely view the eclipse without approved glassware is to create a pinhole projector.  This is an easy project that will just take a minute, and a great way to get children engaged in the process and excited about the eclipse.

To create a pinhole projector, simply use a thumbtack to poke a hole or multiple holes in a sheet of paper to form an image of the sun on a nearby surface.  More detailed instructions are available here.

You can also use a small mirror to project an image of the sun onto a wall in a shaded room.  

4.  Don’t assume you’re fine if you don’t “feel” differently right away

Even if your eyes don’t hurt immediately following a direct gaze at the sun, there still could be damage.  Often we might not see signs of blurred vision or retinal scarring for a few days.  Those of you who are already at risk for retinal damage (and you know who you are!) or who have had LASIK or other retina-related procedures should take absolutely every safety precaution.

5.  Don’t miss the eclipse!

Be sure to follow our precautionary advice to ensure safe viewing of the eclipse.  While we love seeing our patients every day, the last thing we want to do is treat some of you later in the week who present with blurry sight… and it turns out that your retina was burnt!  

That being said, we try not to be “fun sponges,” so your doctors at the Eye Center, Inc. do encourage you to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience!  We can’t wait to hear what you thought of the 2017 solar eclipse.

About the Eye Center, Inc.