Kentucky doctors of optometry provide guidance on how to safely watch the eclipse

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 FRANKFORT – If you live in Western Kentucky, or are headed that way later this month to view the total solar eclipse, make sure you pack more than a lunch and some lawn chairs.

Eye safety will be critically important.

“There is a real lack of understanding about how to safely view the eclipse, which is understandable since this is the first total eclipse since 1918 and the first eclipse in the continental United States since 1979,” said Dr. Randy Steele, an optometrist in Morehead and president of the Kentucky Optometric Association. “That’s why we want to caution people on the best viewing practices and urge them to consult their doctor of optometry if they have any questions.”

Totality, the point at which the moon completely blocks the sun, is the only time during a solar eclipse when it is safe to remove special eclipse glasses or viewers to gaze on the obscured sun. Everyone else must view the partially eclipsed sun through eclipse glasses or viewers that meet ISO 12312-2 international standards, or through devices such as pinhole projectors.

Here are some safety guidelines, which have been provided by the American Optometric Association, the American Astronomical Association and NASA:

·       Always inspect your solar filter before use. If it is scratched or damaged, discard it. Make sure you read and follow any instructions.

·       Supervise children using solar filters.

·       Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the sun. After glancing at the sun, turn away and remove your filter. Don’t remove it while looking at the sun.

·       Don’t look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars or other optical device – not even if you are wearing eclipse glasses or using a hand-held solar viewer. 

·       If you are in the path of totality, remove your solar filter only when the moon completely covers the sun’s bright face, and it suddenly gets very dark. As soon as the bright sun begins to reappear, replace your solar viewer to glance at the remaining partial phases.

“Improperly viewing the eclipse – even for a very short period of time -- can cause immense and permanent damage,” Steele said. “Because the retina has no pain receptors, that damage can occur without any sensation of pain.”