Published On: Wed, Dec 25th, 2019

How to safely watch this decade’s last solar eclipse

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Go for eclipse glasses or solar filters and do not use homemade tools


Bengaluru:  Watching a solar eclipse is a memorable experience and the last solar eclipse of this decade is going to take place on December 26, 2019, Thursday. It will be clearly visible in some parts of Southern India.

This celestial event is 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. This leaves rim, which forms a “ring of fire” in the sky.  The solar eclipse will last for a maximum of three minutes and 40 seconds. Partial solar eclipse will appear at first location at 7:59:53 am. Full solar eclipse will appear at 9:04:33am, and then move to maximum eclipse position at 10:47:46 am.

“However, the awe-inspiring event should not be viewed, even for a short time, without wearing proper eye protection gear,”warns Dr Bhujang Shetty, renowned ophthalmologist and CMD of Narayana Nethralaya.

Unprotected viewing can permanently damage your eyes

According to Dr Shetty, 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.

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.

Solar retinopathy generally occurs as outbreaks during a solar eclipse but has also been reported in sunbathers and after religious rituals involving sun gazing.

Protect your eyes when watching a solar eclipse

Dr Shetty suggests ways to enjoy this event. You can safely watch a solar eclipse with eclipse glasses or solar filters. These glasses/filters must meet certain minimum safety criteria:

  • 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.

Do not resort these homemade hacks

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.

Most safe way of watching a solar eclipse

A great option now available 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.

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