How to safely watch this decade’s last solar eclipse
The last solar eclipse of this decade is going to take place on December 26, 2019, and will be clearly visible in some parts of Southern India. This celestial event is going to be extra special as it is an annular solar eclipse, where the moon comes between the path of the Sun and the Earth and blocks the Sun from the centre but leaves the rims visible, which forms a “ring of fire” in the sky.
A truly awe-inspiring event, watching a solar eclipse can be a memorable experience. However, staring or looking directly at the sun even for a short time, without wearing the right eye protection, can seriously damage your eyes. Sun gazing during a solar eclipse or even during normal daylight hours can burn a spot in the retina, which can lead to permanent blindness. Also known as solar retinopathy, damage to the retinal tissues caused due to exposure to solar radiation can affect the way images are transmitted to the brain.
Unprotected solar eclipse viewing can permanently damage your eyes
Solar retinopathy generally occurs as outbreaks during a solar eclipse, but has also been reported in sunbathers and after religious rituals involving sun gazing. People affected by solar retinopathy may experience decreased vision, distorted vision, blind spots (central scotomas), light sensitivity (photophobia), disruption of colour perception (chromatopsia) and headaches. It is therefore advisable not to watch the solar eclipse with naked eyes.
So how can you protect your eyes when watching a solar eclipse?
You can safely watch a solar eclipse with eclipse glasses or solar filters. These glasses/filters must meet certain safety criteria, such as:
- They must be ISO certified
- They must be free of any defects, such as scratches, bubbles and dents.
- The handheld viewers must be large enough to cover both eyes.
Make sure you are not looking at the sun while putting on and removing the solar filters. You can share the filter with anyone. Ensure that children use handheld solar viewers and eclipse glasses correctly.
It is not safe to use sunglasses, homemade or polaroid filters, X-ray film, undeveloped film or smoked glass to view the solar eclipse as they are not safe enough to protect you from sun damage. Telescopes or binoculars that are not covered by filters are also not safe to use.
Another great option is to watch the live stream of the eclipse online. This way you won’t miss out on viewing the eclipse if you are in a region where you cannot witness the final solar eclipse of 2019 directly.
Happy solar eclipse viewing!!