There are just a few days until one of the most spectacular natural phenomena graces our world. On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse from the continental United States will be visible. This long-awaited phenomenon occurs during the summer solstice and is called a “solar” eclipse. A solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves between Earth and the Sun, blocking out much of the Sun’s light for those on Earth to see. A total solar eclipse occurs when one or both of these celestial bodies completely blocks out the other for anywhere from just a few minutes to about an hour.
1. The Sun Can Cause Serious Eye Damage
The Sun is an extremely hot, bright, and heavy ball of gas. Well, it’s technically a star. With a surface temperature that reaches as high as 5,500 degrees Fahrenheit (3,000 degrees Celsius), the Sun is not something you should stare at with your naked eyes. While the eclipse on August 21 will cause the Sun to look like a black disk, it can still burn your retinas. If you are considering watching the eclipse at a park, know it takes only a few seconds of direct sunlight and intense UV rays to cause permanent eye damage.
2. Smart Glasses Provide Much More Protection
While it may be tempting to use your regular reading glasses or sunglasses as protection, they don’t offer enough protection from the Sun’s ultraviolet rays. Some of the most dangerous light levels are below 400 nanometers (nm), with concentrations peaking around 200 nm. As it turns out, these ultraviolet rays can cause retinal diseases that lead to blindness and even cancer down the road. When the Sun’s light reaches these harmful levels, it can increase the risk of eye cancer by about 50 percent. Due to their filtering abilities and ability to block UV rays, you should always have a pair of protective eclipse glasses.
3. Glasses Protect Your Eyes During Circling Sun
Occasionally, when you look at the Sun, your eyes will experience multiple reflections of sunlight off the various surfaces around you, such as clouds or buildings that make up part of your visual field. You can sometimes see reflections of the Sun off yourself as you look down at your feet. It is normal to see the world around us, but it can be hazardous to your health. In high altitudes, the air is thinner, and you will experience less direct light from the Sun. However, as you increase altitude, the Sun’s rays also become less concentrated and thus more dangerous for your eyes. Since solar eclipses only happen when the moon completely blocks out our view of the Sun, it is much easier to see these reflections in nature than during an eclipse when a total solar eclipse.
4. Glasses’ Protective Filter Blocks Other High-Energy UV Rays
Sometimes, when you look at the Sun, you’ll see a slightly yellowish or white color on the outer part of the circle. It is because you are looking at a cross-section of the Sun’s atmosphere layers. If you look straight down on top of an active solar spot, you may also see a dark-colored structure and long fiery streamers that can unfold like ribbons. No matter how far away you are from the Sun, if your eyes are focused directly on it, all of these structures will appear within your field of vision.