On August 21, Houstonians may only  see a partial solar eclipse, but watching this phenomenon without taking safety precautions could lead to permanent eye damage or even blindness.


Rahul Pandit, M.D., a Houston Methodist ophthalmologist, remembers viewing the 1979 eclipse at his elementary school with a pinhole viewer.


“Seeing an eclipse of the sun is a breathtaking experience,” Pandit said. “It’s an event no one should miss, but it can be dangerous. The sun’s visible light is blocked by the moon moving in front of it, which allows viewers a chance to actually stare at the sun. However, the other wavelengths of light, such as infrared rays, are still able to reach and burn the retina of the eyes. This can cause serious damage within minutes.”


Pandit recommends three tips to make your viewing safe and enjoyable.


  1. Get the correct filters – Purchase eclipse glasses with filters that are IS 12312-2 compliant. These glasses not only reduce visible sunlight to safe and comfortable levels, but also block solar UV and IR radiation.
  2. Protect your eyes for the entire eclipse – The only safe time to look without your glasses is during the total eclipse, but Houston is well outside the 70-mile-wide path of the total eclipse. Houstonians viewing the partial eclipse should wear their glasses the entire time.
  3. Extra precaution is needed if viewing with a telescope – If you plan to view the eclipse through a telescope, you’ll need more than the glasses. Specially designed filters for the telescope’s lenses will be needed to provide full eye protection.


“I’m looking forward to viewing this year’s eclipse with my children, so it’s important to ensure they are viewing safely as well,” Pandit said. “These safety precautions will help the entire family enjoy the 2017 eclipse.”


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