NEWBERRY —The total solar eclipse is quickly approaching and as exciting as this unique experience is, can cause permanent damage to your eyes if not viewed properly.
One consequence of unsafe viewing of the eclipse is solar retinopathy, which can cause permanent eye damage.
“Solar retinopathy is basically instant degeneration. It’s pretty instantaneous, it takes about 15 minutes to damage your vision. People need to be careful and listen to people when it comes to safety,” said Dr. Robert Livingston, ophthalmologist.
According to NASA, solar retinopathy is the result of too much ultraviolet light that floods the retina. It reports that in extreme cases, solar retinopathy can cause blindness, but is so painful that it is rare for someone to be able to stare at the sun for an extended amount of time.
Eye damage from staring at the sun can result in blurred vision, dark or yellow spots and pain in bright light or loss of vision in the center of the eye known as the fovea.
Despite 99 percent of the Sun’s surface (the photosphere) being obscured during the partial phase of the eclipse, the remaining crescent Sun is still intense enough to cause a retinal burn.
The American Astronomical Society offers valuable tips on how to view the total solar eclipse safely. These tips include putting eclipse glasses over eyeglasses or handheld viewers, not viewing the eclipse through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars or other optical device. A full list of tips can be found at https://eclipse.aas.org/eye-safety.
Newsweek reported that the one safe time to view the eclipse is when the moon is blocking the sun completely, with the danger of the retina burning absent. It also reported that even when a sliver of the sun is still visible, unprotected gazing is unsafe.
There will roughly be two and a half minutes of totality when daylight briefly turns to twilight and the temperature begins to drop. This is the time where people viewing the eclipse can remove their glasses until the diamond ring effect returns on the opposite side.
If you or someone you know views the total solar eclipse without the proper eye protection and begins having eye issues, they are encouraged to visit their eye physician to seek treatment.
Reach Kelly Duncan at 803-768-3123 ext. 1868 or on Twitter @TheNBOnews.