The celestial phenomena of solar eclipses have fascinated humanity for millennia. These rare events, in which the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, blocking out the sun's light either partially or entirely, continue to captivate our imagination. However, as breathtaking as these occurrences are, they can also pose significant risks to your eyesight if not observed safely.

The Risk to Your Eyes

The sun emits an enormous amount of light energy, including harmful ultraviolet rays. While our eyes have built-in reflexes to prevent us from looking directly at the sun, the fascination and excitement around solar eclipses often prompt people to break this natural habit. This can result in severe eye damage or even permanent blindness.

During an eclipse, the lighting conditions change, often fooling our eyes and reducing our natural aversion to looking directly at the sun. In a total eclipse, the moon covers the sun entirely for a brief period, making it safe to look without protection. However, this moment is fleeting and extremely localized based on your viewing location. For an annular eclipse, where the moon covers the sun's center, leaving a "ring of fire," looking directly at the event can be just as damaging as looking at the full sun.

Why Regular Sunglasses Won't Cut It

You might think that your everyday UV-protection sunglasses are enough to keep your eyes safe during an eclipse, but this is a misconception. Regular sunglasses don't offer the level of protection needed to view a solar eclipse safely. Eclipse glasses or viewers are specially designed to filter out harmful rays, including UV, visible, and infrared light, providing a far greater degree of protection than standard sunglasses.

What Are Eclipse Glasses and How Do They Work?

Eclipse glasses or eclipse viewers are made from a special black polymer material that significantly dims sunlight. They are designed to adhere to the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard, which ensures they are "eclipse safe." Unlike regular sunglasses, which only reduce sunlight, eclipse glasses essentially turn the sun into a pale, featureless disk, allowing you to look at it directly without risk of eye injury.

How to Use Eclipse Glasses Properly

1. Inspect Before Use: Before putting them on, always inspect your eclipse glasses for any pinholes, scratches, or other damages.

2. Put Them On Safely: Put your eclipse glasses on before you look up at the sun. Never remove them while looking at the sun unless you are certain you are in the phase of totality during a total eclipse—and even then, exercise extreme caution.

3. Look Away Before Removing: Turn your gaze away from the sun before taking off your glasses.

4. Supervise Children: Always supervise children using eclipse glasses and make sure they are used correctly.


Solar eclipses, be they annular or total, are magnificent events that give us a chance to witness the awe-inspiring dynamics of our solar system. However, the risks they pose to our eyesight are real and significant. The good news is that these risks are entirely preventable by using eclipse glasses or eclipse viewers that meet international safety standards. So the next time you find yourself in the path of an eclipse, make sure you're prepared—not just for an amazing experience, but for a safe one as well.

September 18, 2023 — Roger Sarkis

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