This is why you can't look directly at a solar eclipse without protective eyewear

This is why you can't look directly at a solar eclipse without protective eyewear

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The most important thing you'll need if you plan to have your eyes on the sky - eclipse glasses. Without the proper protection, you can permanently damage your eyes - even go blind.

Here's what you need to know to watch the solar eclipse safely. Experiencing an eclipse wouldn't be an experience without Dr. Brian Huff's specialty.

"I just love the eye. I'm a perfectionist at heart, and I've got really steady hands," Huff said.

Huff's steady hands can fix a lot of eye problems, but if this complex organ is hurt by an eclipse, there's not much this Columbia ophthalmologist can do.

"It can permanently burn your retina. That's the camera film in the back of your eye," Huff said. "If someone damages their eyes this way, it would be like a grandpa who has macular degeneration, and he can't read anything without big magnifying glasses. It would wipe out your central vision."

During the eclipse, the sun won't be more harmful to your eyes than any other day.

But, with the moon blocking a lot of the sun's bright, white light, you won't have to strain as much to look at it, your pupils will dilate, and the sun's invisible and harmful ultraviolet light will do damage.


"Some people, knowing that it's the ultraviolet rays that cause the damage, they'll look at their Ray-Bans and go, 'These have 100 percent UVA and UVB protection, so I should be fine.' That's not true," Huff said. "Those glasses are not designed to block out the intensity of the sun rays."

You'll need to wear specialized, NASA-approved glasses – except during the brief moments of totality when the moon fully eclipses the sun.

"I actually happened to bring a pair with me, but these paper glasses that you'd think wouldn't be that strong – there's a denotation on here that says ISO 12312, and that's a designated filter that can filter out those harmful rays," Huff said. "They're quite stylish, but you need this to have on, but even with this, I don't recommend continually watching a solar eclipse."

Dr. Huff says on eclipse day, he'll be extra cautious. For every 10 seconds, he looks at the sun with his glasses on, he'll spend the following ten minutes looking away.

Another eye-saving tip: these glasses don't do you any good when you're looking through an unfiltered telescope or pair of binoculars. In fact, that can be even more dangerous in a situation like that, because those magnifiers concentrate the sun's rays into a smaller point – concentrated energy that can burn through glasses, and your eye.

Looking through a camera could cause you the same harm. Denise McGill, who teaching photography at USC, says you need to do your homework before pointing a camera directly at the sun.

"'I'm going to look at it through a camera, I'm going to be safe.' No! No! No! No! No! No! That's actually even worse for you," McGill said.

Without a special filter, there's a chance the sun can fry your 
camera too.

"If I've got my camera, and I'm looking at the sun, then as the rays go through here, they're actually concentrating and focusing those rays to your viewfinder, so that is going to fry your eyes even faster than just looking at the sun with your naked eye," McGill said.

McGill suggests that instead of taking photos of the sun and moon, enjoy the moment here on Earth.

"They say that it's just an awe-inspiring moment, so just to soak that in, to see people's reactions to that, who am I with – you know, like who is your posse that you experienced this with – you're going to want to show someone those pictures in 50 years," McGill said.

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