Here’s what happens to your retina if you view an eclipse without protection
Americans are making their last dashes for glasses and viewers to watch the rare total solar eclipse that will glide across the continental US on Monday. Meanwhile, eye doctors are trying to clear away any orbiting debris that’s obscuring vision safety information—and spotlight the dangers of unsafe viewing.
Everyone knows that watching an eclipse—or staring into the Sun in general—can damage eyes. But in a series of articles published Friday in JAMA and JAMA Ophthalmology, a group of ophthalmologists explains in detail how sunlight damages the retina, plus dispels some misconceptions about viewing techniques for the rare event. They also provide a case study of what happens when you go into an eclipse event eyeballs-out.
David Calkins and Paul Sternberg of The Vanderbilt Eye Institute in Nashville, Tennessee, (which will experience a total eclipse) wrote one of the pieces in JAMA Ophthalmology. In it, they point out that many people have the misconception that an eclipse allows safe viewing of the Sun—that the lunar disk will cover everything but the Sun’s beautiful corona. This is true for those lucky ones that are along the path of the total eclipse, albeit only briefly. For those in the totality path, the Sun’s core will be blotted out for no more than two minutes and 41 seconds. “However, for most people, at least some portion of the Sun’s core will be visible during the event,” Calkins and Sternberg note.