Eclipse glasses allow for safe viewing during total solar eclipse

OSWEGO, N.Y. — It is already dangerous to look directly at the sun when there is not an eclipse, but the rays can be more dangerous as the moon starts to move across the sun.

According to Katelyn Barber, an assistant meteorology professor at SUNY Oswego, it is a misconception that the sun’s rays become more powerful during an eclipse. However, they are still dangerous due to the changes in the sky caused by the eclipse.

“It is like when you are driving in a car. During the day if the oncoming traffic has their lights on, it doesn’t bother your eyes because the background is already bright,” Barber said. “However, at night, those oncoming lights really strain your eyes because it is so much darker and then you have a very bright light source.”

The only way to properly view an eclipse is with the special eclipse glasses that are made specifically to view the celestial event. Not only do they help viewers see the movement of the moon over the sun more clearly, they also protect their eyes from being permanently damaged from the sun’s rays.

“Eclipse glasses are completely critical in preventing eye damage,” said Rebecca Marinoff, an associate clinical professor at the SUNY College of Optometry. “If someone looks at the sun … ever, without proper eye protection, you risk irreversible eye damage to the retina.”

According to Marinoff, the damage done to the retina, which is the tissue of our eyes that we see with, is equivalent to a burn on a person’s skin. However, Marinoff said that while a burn on the skin is reversible, a burn on the retina is not. 

The eclipse glasses are not like regular sunglasses, as they block out 100% of infrared and ultraviolet light and are 100,000 times darker than sunglasses. When you look through a pair during the day, it is pitch-black. 

There are a lot of do-it-yourself (DIY) eclipse viewing contraptions online like pinhole projectors, but nothing can replace the real eclipse glasses.

“They [pinhole projectors] are not for looking at the sun with, those are for projecting the eclipse either onto the ground in front of you or onto a wall if you are in a room,” Marinoff said. “You want to make sure you are using the correct, professional filter that is being made up to certain standards.” 

The current worldwide standard for solar filters is known as ISO 12312-2. Every pair of glasses used should have that on the inside of the temple of the glasses. 

According to an excerpt from a book called “Observe Eclipses!” by Dr. Michael D. Reynolds and Richard A. Sweetsir, people should also avoid looking at the reflection of the sun off of water and off of the hood of a car because the reflected light can still cause eye damage.

It is also dangerous to look at an eclipse through a camera lens or on a phone. On top of damaging many different functions of your camera, from its image stabilization to its sensor, it can also cause permanent eye damage. In order to be able to use a camera to take pictures of an eclipse, a solar filter is required. These filters also need to be used for telescopes and binoculars.

Barber says that during the total solar eclipse that will be seen on April 8, there will be complete coverage of the sun, unlike the annular eclipse from October 2023. 

“What is happening here in a few weeks, the moon and the Earth are a perfect distance from each other that the sun can be completely blocked out by the moon,” Barber said. “For about three to three-and-a-half minutes here on campus.”

During the three-and-a-half minutes of total coverage, people are able to take off their glasses to look at the eclipse. However, they must be mindful that it is only for a short period of time and to put them back on before the sun starts to peek out again. 

In a press release, SUNY Oswego said it is providing eclipse glasses through the box office for students, faculty and the general public. 

While this is an exciting, once-in-a-lifetime event, having eye protection is the number one priority.