Why can’t you look directly at an eclipse?

An eclipse is one of the fascinating events brought by nature. It happens when the moon passes between the Earth and the Sun. The moon blocks the light of the Sun from reaching our planet, leaving a shadow on Earth.

A total solar eclipse happens when the moon entirely blocks the Sun. Only the solar corona or the Sun’s outer atmosphere glows during this phenomenon. On the other hand, a partial solar eclipse occurs when only a part of the moon blocks the Sun.

While an eclipse is captivating, ophthalmologists warn that looking directly at an eclipse without any appropriate protection can cause damage to the eyes or permanent blindness.

Remember that the Sun is essentially a gigantic, constant thermonuclear explosion. It emits intense radiation on a broad spectrum, including ultraviolet and infrared lights. Ultraviolet light causes sunburn, while infrared is absorbed in by most materials and is easily transformed into heat.

Temporary distortion and headaches are two of the modest effects a person can get from extreme sunlight exposure. Ultraviolet radiation may lead to different disorders in the eye, such as corneal dystrophies, solar retinitis, and macular degenerations. All three can cause significant visual impairment.

What’s appalling is that the effects of harmful Sun’s rays are accrued per exposure. This means that looking directly to the Sun twice will incur your eyes twice the damage regardless, even if you took a look at the Sun on different days.

While humans have an innate disinclination at an intensely bright light, once in a lifetime events, such as solar eclipse can be so tempting, causing us to make wrong judgments. It can be possible for the darkness brought by the eclipse to countermand our eyes’ natural reflex to squint when exposed to bright light. Thus, the amount of extremely bright light hitting the retina increases, causing more damage to the eyes.

Sun rays are so intense that looking at the Sun even on a small portion of it during an eclipse can jeopardize your eyes. Looking at the Sun directly will focus and concentrate intense bright light to the retina, burning it and resulting in problems, such as retinopathy. The worst is that the retina doesn’t have pain receptors. This means no pain will be felt, and you’ll just notice the problems once the symptoms are already present – which is often too late.

Some symptoms of solar eclipse eye damage include blind spots or central scotomas, disruption of color vision and shape perception, light sensitivity, and reduced visual acuity. Should you experience any of these after exposure to intensely bright light, visit an eye doctor right away for examination and treatment.

If you badly want to view a solar eclipse, you may do so without damaging your eyes. Make sure to use eye protectors that filter the harmful rays from the Sun. Don’t use smoked glass, colored glass, or ordinary sunglasses as they don’t give an ample amount of protection.

Moreover, never look directly at the Sun using unfiltered binoculars, telescopes, or photography lenses. These items tend to absorb and focus more light, which can cause more considerable damage to the eyes.

Welder’s goggles with a shade of 12 or higher would be enough. However, it is still advisable to use solar eclipse glasses, which are specifically designed for viewing the Sun. Once you have them, see to it that they aren’t scratched, punctured, or torn. If they are, better find new ones for your own safety.

In conclusion, looking directly at the Sun during an eclipse is dangerous to the eyes. It can lead to eye disorders, visual impairment, and even permanent blindness. If ever you viewed a solar eclipse and experience any changes with your vision, seek treatment right away to prevent any further damage.

More Readings:

Eclipse (Wikipedia)

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