Solar Eclipses and Eye Safety

March 14, 2024
Eye safety should always be the number one priority when viewing a solar eclipse. For more information on upcoming eclipses and essential eye safety, read on.
Solar Eclipse

Solar Eclipses

According to the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA), an eclipse is an awe-inspiring celestial event that drastically changes the appearance of the two biggest objects we see in our sky: our Sun and Moon.

Looking directly at the sun during a solar eclipse is unsafe and can cause temporary or even permanent damage to your eyes. Before viewing this natural phenomenon, learn more about proper eye safety to keep your eyes healthy.

Annular Vs. Total Solar Eclipse

An annular solar eclipse happens when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth while it is near its farthest point from Earth. Because the Moon is farther away from Earth, it appears smaller than the Sun and does not completely cover the star – creating a “ring of fire” effect in the sky. The most recent annular solar eclipse took place on October 14, 2023.

A total solar eclipse happens when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, completely blocking the face of the Sun. A total solar eclipse is the only type of solar eclipse where viewers can momentarily remove their eclipse glasses or viewers for a brief period of time when the Moon is completely blocking the Sun.

Annular Vs. Total Solar Eclipses

Total Solar Eclipse: April 8, 2024

A total solar eclipse will cross the United States passing over Texas, and traveling through Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

It will be the last total solar eclipse visible from the contiguous United States until 2044! So, let’s get those peepers prepped for viewing.

Tips for viewing a total solar eclipse

Except during the brief total phase of a total solar eclipse, when the Moon completely blocks the Sun’s bright face, it’s not safe to look directly at the Sun without specialized eye protection for solar viewing.

  1. Use approved solar eclipse viewers. The only safe way to view a partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as " eclipse glasses" or viewers that meet international standard ISO 12312-2 for safe viewing. Sunglasses, smoked glass, unfiltered telescopes or magnifiers, and polarizing filters are unsafe. Inspect your eclipse glasses or handheld viewer before use – if torn, scratched, or otherwise damaged, discard the device.

    Protect those peepers and download our fun DIY template pinhole eclipse projector!

  2. Technique of the pros. Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up. After viewing, turn away and remove your glasses or viewer — do not remove them while looking at the sun. If you normally wear eyeglasses, wear your eclipse glasses over them, or hold your handheld viewer in front of them.

  3. Totality awesome. Only within the path of totality—and once the moon completely blocks the sun—can eclipse viewers safely be removed to view totality. Once the sun begins reappearing, however, viewers must be replaced.

  4. Visit your doctor of optometry. If you should experience discomfort or vision problems following the eclipse, visit your local doctor of optometry for a comprehensive eye examination.

Keep in mind! Eclipse glasses are NOT regular sunglasses – regular sunglasses, no matter how dark, are not safe for viewing the sun.

Symptoms from Incorrect Viewing

It can take a few hours to a few days after viewing the solar eclipse to realize the damage that has occurred.

If you experience discomfort or vision problems following the eclipse, visit your local doctor of optometry for an in-person, comprehensive eye exam. Some common symptoms include:

  • Loss of central vision,
  • Distorted vision, and
  • Altered color vision.

All symptoms should be treated as urgent until viewed by a doctor of optometry. If you suspect an eye or vision problem, don’t hesitate to visit a doctor of optometry – this is the best way to combat potentially severe complications, including vision loss.

To book an appointment with a doctor of optometry near you, visit the AOA’s doctor locator.

For more information, visit the American Astronomical Society’s (AAS) website. To download fact sheets from the AAS, click here. For the Spanish version, click here.

Find a Doctor of Optometry

Find a Doctor of Optometry

Related Articles

Mental Health and Your Eyes

The ocular impact of stress may range from mild discomfort to severe, debilitating vision loss.

Gaming and Digital Eyestrain

We all want to stay connected, and today, there are more ways than ever to do so. And the one thing connecting us most? Screens.

Why a comprehensive eye exam should be first on your back-to-school checklist

A child needs many abilities to succeed in school and good vision is key.