Skip to Main Content

Solar Eclipse August 21st

August 21st, the skies over Raleigh and the entire central area of North Carolina are expected to go dark at approximately 2:44 PM. While we won’t see totality here, where the sun is completely obscured by the moon, this is an extremely rare event that is not to be missed. The last total solar eclipse that was visible in the USA was in 1979! With such a historic occasion, viewing the eclipse is something many in our local community are excited to see, but doing so safely is of utmost importance. Here’s what you need to know about how to enjoy this rare occasion without the risk of permanently damaging your eyes:

What’s the Risk of Viewing the Eclipse?

In as little as 30 seconds of direct viewing, the sun’s radiation can burn a hole in the delicate retinal photoreceptors that line the back of the eye. Our eye is similar to a magnifying glass – light entering the eye is focused into a small point on the retinal cells in the back of the eye. Think about holding a magnifying glass over a dry leaf in the bright sun. It doesn’t take long to start generating heat and begin burning the leaf. That same effect can happen to our eye, but when the retinal cells burn they cannot repair themselves. The hole left behind can cause permanent vision loss! This condition is called solar retinopathy and there is no cure to repair the lost vision.

Are Sunglasses Safe Protection?

No! While sunglasses have UV protection, they don’t have protection against the sun’s radiation (called non-ionizing radiation). It is very possible to get solar retinopathy if you try to view the eclipse with only sunglasses. Approved protective eyewear must have chromium alloy or aluminum built into the lens to block non-ionizing radiation.

Where Can I Find Eyewear Safe for Eclipse Viewing?

NASA’s website has a list of approved vendors selling eclipse viewing eyewear with the necessary protection here: https://eclipse.aas.org/resources/solar-filters