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Press Release

How to Experience the Great American Solar Eclipse Without Damaging Your Vision

Center For Sight
Posted on: 10 Aug 17

LAS VEGAS, Aug. 8, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- On Aug. 21, millions of people in the U.S. will see day turn to night as a total solar eclipse passes over North America. The last time this happened from coast to coast was 1918. Temperatures will drop rapidly as the moon completely covers the sun. You will be able to see the spectacular colors and light of the sun's atmosphere, a sight revealed to us only during a total solar eclipse. 

While you cannot completely prepare yourself for the sight of a total solar eclipse, ophthalmologists—physicians who specialize in medical and surgical eye care—want you to be prepared with proper eye protection. Viewing even the smallest sliver of a crescent sun peeking out from behind the moon is enough to cause irreversible damage to your vision.

Russell N. Van Gelder, MD, Ph.D., a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, has treated patients who have lost vision to the sun. 

"The complete solar eclipse is a wonderful and memorable phenomenon that should be experienced by everyone in the eclipse path," said Dr. Van Gelder. "It is essential, however, that viewing is done safely. Viewing the sun directly, even for brief periods, can cause permanent damage to the retina and result in blindness. I have patients who viewed the sun 40 years ago, who remain without central vision in their affected eyes."

Las Vegas eye surgeon and Center For Sight medical director, Eva Liang, MD, cautions especially against allowing children to view the solar eclipse, without carefully selected eye protection and knowledgeable adult supervision.

"As a mother of three young boys, I want them to see and remember the eclipse for the rest of their lives, but I also want them to know that the danger of improperly viewing it cannot be overestimated. Every child—and every adult—should be educated not only about the wonder of this marvelous astronomical event but, even more, about observing it safely.  Specialized solar filters meeting international safety standards are absolutely essential for viewing," said Dr. Liang. 

Dr. Van Gelder explains that the lenses in your eyes act like a magnifying glass, one that is five times more powerful than a handheld magnifier. Think about how you can use that typical handheld magnifier to focus the sun to burn holes in paper. That's what happens when you look at the sun without eye protection. You focus the sun's light on the retina, burning holes in light-sensitive photoreceptor cells, causing blindness. 

There is one exception to this rule. There is a brief phase during a total solar eclipse when it is safe to look directly at the sun. This phase is called totality, and it lasts about two minutes. It occurs when the moon entirely blocks the sun's bright face. But as soon as the sun begins to reappear, put the solar filters back on. The path of totality for the August 21, 2017, total solar eclipse is about 70 miles wide and stretches from Oregon to South Carolina, passing also through Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina. What this means for sky watchers in southern Nevada, where there will be only a partial eclipse, is that there will not be any period of time at all during which the event will be safe to view without solar filters; and to view a total eclipse in the western US, they will have to travel north.

In Las Vegas, a partial eclipse will be observable, beginning at 9:09 a.m.  The middle of the eclipse, which is when the most sun will be covered, will take place at 10:27 a.m., and the eclipse will end at 11:52 a.m.  During the middle of the eclipse, 72 percent of the sun will be blocked.

There are no exceptions to the rules for safely viewing a partial solar eclipse. To make sure people have the facts, Center For Sight, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and the American Astronomical Society offer the following guidelines: 

Use specially designed solar eclipse glasses and viewers to block the sun's harmful rays. Ordinary sunglasses, even dark ones, are not strong enough to protect your eyes. To date, only four manufacturers have certified that their eclipse glasses and handheld solar viewers meet international safety standards:
     Rainbow Symphony
     American Paper Optics
     Thousand Oaks Optical
     TSE 17

Inspect your solar filter before the eclipse, and don't use it if it's scratched or damaged.

Another option is to view the eclipse through #14 welder's glass. That's much darker than the shades arc welders typically wear.

Use solar filters on camera lenses, binoculars, and telescopes. 

Do not use solar eclipse glasses to look through a camera, binoculars or a telescope. The sun can melt the filter and damage your eyes.

For more information on solar eclipse safety or other eye care concerns, visit, or call 702.724-2020.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) is the world's largest association of eye physicians and surgeons.  With board-certified, AAO-member, ophthalmologists in four locations in southern Nevada, Center For Sight is a comprehensive ophthalmology center dedicated to the most compassionate, individualized, and highest standard of eye care.

Editor's Details

Mike Wood

Last updated on: 10/08/2017

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