On Aug. 21, a total solar eclipse will touch the U.S. mainland for the first time since 1979. The moon will cover at least part of the sun for two to three hours. Tens of millions of people who live within a 70-mile radius of its cross-country track will witness the eclipse in totality — when the moon completely blocks the sun — while millions of others outside of it will enjoy a partial eclipse.

solar eclipseThe American Optometric Association (AOA) urges Americans to view the eclipse with proper eye protection, to avoid any temporary or permanent eye damage from the sun.

To ensure spectators won’t miss the remarkable sight, the AOA is sharing a few tips for safe viewing:

  • Get centered and enjoy the view. Within the path of totality, you can safely witness the two or more minutes when the moon completely covers the sun with the naked eye. Once the sun begins reappearing, however, special viewers must be placed on your eyes again. Those outside the path of totality never should look directly at the sun without protecting their eyes with verified viewing tools, even briefly.
  • Know your duration. Outside the path of totality, always use solar filters. The only safe way to look directly at the un-eclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters or other ISO-certified filters, such as “eclipse glasses” or handheld solar viewers.
  • Before looking at the sun, cover your eyes with the eclipse viewers while standing still. Glance at the sun, turn away and then remove your filter. Do not remove the filter while looking at the sun. Sunglasses, smoked glass, unfiltered telescopes or magnifiers and polarizing filters all are unsafe. If you can’t find eclipse viewers, build a pinhole projector to watch the eclipse.
  • Be aware of harmful solar exposure. If you stare at the sun without protection, you may experience damage to your retina — the tissue at the back of your eye — called “solar retinopathy.” This damage can occur without any sensation of pain, since the retina does not have pain receptors. The injury can be temporary or permanent. Visit your local optometrist immediately if an accident occurs.
  • Visit with your optometrist. Check in with your local optometrist for information about safely viewing the eclipse. If you experience any problems with your eyes or vision after the eclipse, their office will be able to provide you with the medical care you need.

For more information, visit www.aoa.org/2017eclipse.

This information was provided by South Central Kansas Medical Center Marketing Director Clayton Pappan.