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EDITORIAL: Don’t look directly at sun during eclipse

Wear special eclipse glasses or use pinhole projection

In all the hype surrounding Monday’s total solar eclipse, don’t miss this: Protect your eyes if you look at the sun.

Staring directly at the solar eclipse can permanently damage your eyes — even looking for seconds, and even when the sun is mostly eclipsed, can result in retinal sunburn.

The only time it’s safe to gaze directly the sun is when it’s completely blocked by the moon — and in Park County, that’s not going to happen. The moon will cover about 97 percent of the sun in Powell on Monday.

That remaining 3 percent — or more, depending on the phase of the eclipse — is just as dangerous as the full sun.

Looking at a partial eclipse can lead to vision loss or even permanent blindness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“It’s really important to resist the urge to look, even momentarily, directly in the sun because you have no real sense of time,” said Dr. Christopher Quinn, president of the American Optometric Association, in an Associated Press article. “What you think may be a glancing look could be a more substantial amount of time, and that can result in permanent damage.”

The fleeting seconds or minutes of an eclipse are not worth your eyesight.

An Oregon man who directly stared at a partial eclipse as a teenager 55 years ago is warning people not to make the same mistake he did. Lou Tomososki and a friend burned their retinas while watching a partial eclipse outside a high school in 1962.

“You know how the news people blur a licence plate out — that’s what I have on the right eye, about the size of a pea; I can’t see around that,” he told the news station KGW.

He is now 70 years old, but his vision has not improved.

To safely view Monday’s rare eclipse, NASA offers the following tips:

  • Use certified eclipse glasses or a hand-held solar viewer: Be sure they’re not scratched or damaged, and that they meet safety standards. Some businesses in the area still have eclipse glasses available.
  • Do not look at the partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, binoculars or telescope.
  • Even when you’re wearing eclipse glasses, it isn’t safe to look through an unfiltered camera, binoculars or telescope. “… the concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eye(s), causing serious injury,” according to NASA.
  • Use a solar filter for your camera, telescope or binoculars. Be prepared with eclipse glasses as well.
  • An alternative method to safely view the eclipse is a pinhole projection. Directions for creating a pinhole projection or optical projection are available at eclipse.aas.org/eye-safety/projection.
  • Be sure to supervise children using eclipse glasses.

For more safety advice, visit eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety.

Research after a total solar eclipse showed that males under the age of 20 were particularly susceptible to eye injuries, because they tended to ignore warnings, according to The Associated Press.

Heed the advice from people who learned the hard way. It’s only worth watching Monday’s rare eclipse if you can still see everything else afterward.

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