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How to Safely View the Eclipse

Article written by Ece Turhal

On Monday, August 21, 2017, Americans will have a rare opportunity to observe one of nature’s most awe-inspiring sights when the moon completely covers the sun — a total solar eclipse. According to NASA, it will only be possible to see the total eclipse along a narrow path from Lincoln Beach, Oregon with totality beginning at 10:16am (PST) to Charleston, South Carolina, ending at 2:48pm (EST). Major cities close to the total eclipse include Portland, Oregon, St. Louis, Missouri, and Nashville, Tennessee. The longest duration of the full eclipse will last 2 minutes and 40 seconds near Carbondale, Illinois.

Berkeley residents and other observers outside of this narrow path will be able to observe a partial solar eclipse. In Berkeley, the partial eclipse will begin at 9:01 am and end at 11:37 am, with maximum obscuration (76%) at 10:15 am.

Protect Your Eyes

The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters that meet the ISO 12312-2 international standards. Any other filters or sunglasses, even the darkest ones, will not properly protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays. See the link below for a list of reputable vendors of solar filters and viewers gathered by the American Astronomical Society.

How the Sun Can Damage Your Eyes

Complex chemical reactions occur when light falls on our retina, the light-sensitive neural tissue in our eyes that allows us to visualize the world around us. Unfortunately, these reactions can kick into overdrive when the tissue is exposed to intense light, resulting in chemical damage to the cells. This occurs without any feeling of pain, since there are no pain receptors in the retina. However, the retinal damage is real and in some cases can be permanent. “We wouldn’t want anyone to miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime event, but our hope is that everyone who wants to view this event does it safely,” says Dr. Tan Truong, an Assistant Clinical Professor at Berkeley Optometry. “Improper viewing of the sun during an eclipse can lead to eclipse blindness. Who hasn’t been mesmerized by the intense glow of the sun as a child and stared at it a little too long? I certainly did and that’s why I want to stress to parents to spread the word and educate their kids regarding safe viewing of the solar eclipse,” says Dr. Truong.

The solar eclipse glasses are very inexpensive, but your eyes are invaluable; please protect them while enjoying this rare astronomical event.


Solar Eclipse Glasses

Eclipse Information
American Optometric Association Safe Viewing Tips

NPR: What You Need To Protect Your Eyes

Eclipse Simulator

If you want to see what the solar eclipse will look like from your town, you can use the unique simulator produced by the Eclipse Megamovie Project – a collaboration between UC Berkeley and Google.

Eclipse Simulator

4 responses to “How to Safely View the Eclipse

  1. Will the shades that you give when eyes are dialated work for the eclipse

    1. Hi Jeff,

      The shades given out after dilation are not suitable for viewing an eclipse. Thanks for your question!

    1. No, unfortunately not. You still need to get the certified eclipse glasses to be safe.

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