Don’t let your eyes take the strain in the eclipse
Think about how to view the eclipse safely before you enjoy the
Public Health England (PHE) is reminding people planning to
watch the partial eclipse of the sun on Friday 20 March 2015 to
take precautions to reduce potential damage to their eyes.
The eclipse will be visible across the country, with observers
in Scotland likely to see more of the sun obscured by the moon than
any other part of the UK.
John O'Hagan, head of the optical radiation group at PHE,
An eclipse is an amazing spectacle and one which we expect
people all over the UK to enjoy.
But it's important to remember that this
amazing sight, if viewed incorrectly, could pose a risk
to your eyesight. Even if it's cloudy there's a risk of eye damage.
Sunglasses won't give enough protection. Although they may reduce
the sun's glare, they allow you to look for longer, allowing more
sunlight into the eye.
The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) has published
and useful information on how to safely view the eclipse. They
advise that viewing a solar eclipse is potentially hazardous
and should only be attempted with caution. You should never, ever -
under any circumstances - look directly at the Sun. In their
leaflet they list there are things we can get hold of easily - or
even make - that are safe to use.
The UK last experienced a total eclipse of the sun in August
1999. In 2000 the journal of the Royal College of Opthalmologists
published a study detailing the health effects of the event the
previous August. Approximately 70 people reported a loss of vision,
with half of that total reporting issues within 48 hours, as a
consequence of gazing at the eclipse. Of those more than half used
no eye protection and 30% used some kind of filter, such as
sunglasses, which did not have the desired protective effect. Forty
percent of those that reported injury had looked at the eclipse for
less than a minute.
The reason the eclipse poses a risk to eyes is that most of the
time the sun is too bright for us to look directly at it. In an
eclipse strong sunlight penetrates into our eyes and the retina can
be damaged, without the feeling of pain.
Dr O'Hagan added:
There's lots of ways you can safely enjoy the
eclipse, using a pinhole viewer, mirrors or even with a colander
and a sheet of paper. But it's really important you do it right, to
minimise any risk to your eyes, so do investigate
the RAS leaflet as it describes well what to do to
protect your eyes.