What Happens If You Look At The Sun During A Solar Eclipse?

Print icon

Don’t look now, but the solar eclipse is coming Aug 21. It’s the first total eclipse visible from the United States since 1979, though Connecticut residents will see only a partial eclipse when the moon blocks the sun from 1:25 p.m. to 3:59 p.m.

It’s an event, for sure, but don’t watch it without the proper equipment. The total eclipse, visible across the continental United States for the first time in about 40 years — for two minutes in a 70-mile swath from central Oregon through South Caroline — is safe to watch. The partial eclipse, which precedes and follows the total eclipse, is not.

“The only way to look directly at the sun safely during a solar eclipse,” says Dr. Lyndon Lee of the Hartford HealthCare Eye Surgery Center, “is through a specific pair of eyeglasses known as eclipse glasses that block the sun’s harmful rays from entering your eyes and causing sun damage.”

Light from a solar eclipse can damage your eyes, though it’s doubtful it can cause blindness. More often, damage is caused when bright light saturates the retina, a condition known as solar retinopathy. It’s never a good idea, under any circumstances, to look toward the sun.

To view the eclipse, you’ll need solar filters, or “eclipse glasses,” that are regulated by an international safety standard. Counterfeit glasses that carry fake ISO certification labels and inadequate eye protection are showing up online. (Amazon on Aug. 14 said it was offering refunds to people who bought counterfeit solar eclipse glasses on the company’s website.) For a list of approved eclipse glasses and handheld viewers, click here.

As the eclipse approaches, keep in mind these tips from the American Astronomical Society:

  • Check your solar glasses before using them. If there’s a scratch or other damage, don’t use them.
  • Stand still and put on your solar glasses before looking up to the sun. Never remove the glasses while looking at the sun.
  • Never look at the sun through a camera, binoculars or telescope while wearing your eclipse glasses of handheld solar viewer. The concentrated rays can damage the filter and reach the eye, cause serious damage.
  • If you also wear eyeglasses, do not remove them. Place the eclipse glasses over them.
  • Always supervise children who are using eclipse glasses.

“A solar eclipse is a rare but exciting event,” says Dr. Lee. “While it’s possible to view the eclipse, it’s important to protect your eyes and follow guidelines for save eclipse viewing.”

For more information on eye health and conditions like cataracts and glaucoma, visit the Eye Surgery Center. To find an experienced eye surgeon, call 1.855.HHC.EYES (1.855.442.3937).


What's New

Brian Macfarlane

For This Retiree, UroLift (For Enlarged Prostate) Proves Liberating

You might find it hard to believe that Brian Macfarlane has already been retired for 10 years. It’s easy to imagine the youthful 71-year-old still driving the beer distribution truck that he drove for more than 30 years. He’s enjoying retirement and staying active by walking three to four miles...


Parents: How To Explain Hollywood Sex Scandal To Your Kids

Talking about sex with your own kids is never easy. Talking with them about the accusations of sexual misconduct against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, comedian Louis C.K. or U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore and others can be downright intimidating. But it’s an opportunity – another in the many “teachable” moments...


What New High Blood Pressure Guidelines Mean For You

The number of Americans with high blood pressure increased dramatically Nov. 13 when the American Heart Association, the American College Cardiology and nine other groups released a new guideline on hypertension. The standard, the first change in 14 years, is now 130/80 mm Hg, down from the guideline established in...


Rethinking Stroke: DAWN Trial Expands Treatment Window

A groundbreaking new study is helping hospitals and health systems around the world establish protocols that increase the time window of treatment for patients who have had an ischemic stroke, greatly reducing disability and improving outcomes. Results from the DAWN stroke trial released in the New England Journal of Medicine this...


Forget The Meds: Now He Zaps Away Back Pain

For Dan Ivey, life is once again in full bloom. “I love this job. I want to be able to do it until I’m 75 years old,” he said of his job as church caretaker in Old Lyme. But that goal proved nearly impossible after Dan could no longer work...