Viewing Solar Eclipses

There’s been much buzz recently about the impending solar eclipse!  This and future eclipses pose amazing visual and psychological rewards seldom seen in one’s lifetime.  I’d implore you to take advantage of every opportunity you can to participate in these events.  Whether one is in a group setting, a city or even a secluded mountain top look-out: the effect on your person and perhaps soul is something you will never forget.

August 21st, 2017 will be a rare opportunity to view a solar eclipse.  Depending where you stand, you may enjoy a total eclipse (where the moon entirely blocks the sun momentarily) or a partial eclipse for the majority of the population not in the “Totality Zone”.

There are a few key areas I’d like to emphasize so you may enjoy many future eclipses and your vision in general.

  1. Use only ISO (International Standardization Organization of Geneva, Switzerland) approved eclipse-viewing glasses.  Dark sunglasses, mirrored lenses, 3-D movie glasses, etc are simply NOT a substitute.  Anything less will jeopardize your macular health (that means your central vision).
  2. Know that an eclipse (full or partial) will last only approximately 30-120 seconds.  If you are putting on or removing your solar glasses, insure you look away from the area of the eclipse while doing so.
  3. Don’t even try to photograph the eclipse with your smart phone.  There’s a high probability it will be way over-exposed.  Let professional photographers provide the best images.  Far better to enjoy the short yet highly memorable experience ‘au naturale’.  If you’ve never experienced this, you will be in awe of the effect the eclipse has not only on the sun, but the entire world.  The wind and temperature will change.  Shadows will be oddly weird.  The whole experience is profound and is deeply unifying to those who witness it.  Don’t spoil it fumbling with a smart phone or point-and-shoot camera!
  4. Concerning ocular health – the reason we eye doctors make such a big deal about solar eclipse protection is the incredibly high likelihood of what is called solar maculopathy.  Below is a logarithmic graph describing how luminance levels change with pupil size.  Essentially, the pupil in a dark-adjusted eye (such as when the sun is occluded by the moon) will allow a tremendous amount of light to very rapidly illuminate the retina and especially the macula (for practical purposes the optical focal point in the eye’s light-concentrating system) and result in an outcome very similar to taking a magnifying glass in noon daylight to ignite flammable material at its focal point.  That ‘flammable material’ is the macula in our eye analogy.  Once burned, it will never ‘grow back’ and you will forever have a very dark or grey spot smack-dab in the middle of your vision.  Reading, recognizing people’s faces or seeing any level of detail – all will be irreparably altered.

So, get out there and enjoy one of the greatest wonders of nature and our solar system.  But be smart so you can witness many future eclipses and life in general!



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