MORRISTOWN, NJ - The public anxiously awaits today's solar eclipse. It will be the first solar eclipse in the United States since 1979. Safety is extremely important for all eclipse viewers. Dr. Lucy Chen, Pediatric Ophthalmologist at Advocare Pediatric Eye Physicians and staff physician at Morristown Medical Center offers some expert advice.
"Eye wear protection is crucial while viewing the solar eclipse", said Chen. "The solar eclipse can cause burns to the many layers of eye tissues including the cornea, lens, and retina, although the damage to the retina that is most visually consequential. The retina is the delicate layer of nerve tissue that captures light and images and transmits images to the brain.
Kevin Schindler, Planetarium Associate and Technician at the Raritan Valley Community College Planetarium said the best way to view a solar eclipse safely is to wear certified solar eclipse viewing glasses. The specialized glasses block dangerous infrared and ultraviolet rays, according to Schindler. The glasses also block most of the visible light.
"Be sure that they are certified solar eclipse viewing glasses," he continued. "Sunglasses, no mater how good they may be, are not substitutes for the viewing glasses." Sun glasses will not offer a dark enough tint to protect the viewer's eyes, according to Schindler.
Without certified viewing glasses, there are safe ways to observe projections of the eclipse, but Schindler emphasized again, "do not look at the Sun at any time.
"Children and younger people are most at risk of retinal damage as their lenses tend to be the clearest and cannot disperse the harmful rays", said Chen. "There is no risk to the eye when the eclipse is complete but any visible crescent of the sun behind the moon can cause solar damage to the eye that can result in permanent loos of vision, even blindness."
Schindler recommended the "projection method" for viewers who are unable to obtain certified eclipse viewing glasses. To use the projection method, the eclipse viewer stands with his or her back to the sun. While facing away from the sun, the viewer then makes a waffle-shaped shadow on the ground with his or her fingers. The projection of the eclipse will then appear in as a crescent in the shadow.
Eclipse projection method: See photo
There are other projections available that the eclipse viewer can obtain through a web search, but Mr. Schindler said: "No matter what; don't look directly at the Sun."
The RVCC Planetarium offers a free and safe eclipse viewing on Monday. The college has sold approximately one thousand seven hundred pairs of eclipse glasses, and will have a limited supply available on Monday. Mr. Schindler suggests that eclipse viewers bring their own glasses, if possible.