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


The Orchards at Southington receives Activate Southington grant

LeaAnn Blanchard, director of social services at The Orchards at Southington, third from left, gathers with members of Activate Southington and other grant recipients outside the Southington YMCA Women’s Health & Wellness Center. Blanchard’s program, “Laughter with LeaAnn,” received funding to support its expansion to several days each week. The...


DAWN Protocols are Revolutionizing Stroke Treatment and Care

DAWN is a groundbreaking study that is changing the way doctors are treating people who have had strokes. Dr. Mark Alberts is the physician-in-chief at the Hartford HealthCare Ayer Neuroscience Institute with details. Q.  What do these protocols mean for stroke patients?  A.  This new study (called the DAWN Trial...


A Grill Brush, A Burger . . . And Emergency Surgery

Cleaning your grill with a wire brush can be dangerous, as one Wallingford woman learned in 2015. Cheryl Harrison was rushed to MidState Medical Center in Meriden in extreme stomach pain two days after eating a hamburger containing a wire bristle from a barbecue grill brush. A CT scan revealed...


Photo Gallery: Hartford HealthCare Dancing for Parkinson’s Event

The Hartford HealthCare Ayer Neuroscience Institute hosted the inaugural Hartford HealthCare’s Dancing for Parkinson’s fundraising event May 11 at the Hartford Hilton Hotel.  The evening will included a dance competition featuring special guests and judges from Hartford HealthCare and the state and music by the De Novo Band. Proceeds benefit...

Closeup of man tying sneaker.

A Closer Look at Longtime Runner’s Knee-Replacement Surgery

When Richard Kristoff was about 40 years old, his brother called him fat, launching a 45-year passion for running. The Columbia native ran at least five miles a day, more on weekends, in pockets of time he found around his work schedule with Pratt & Whitney, where he spent 40...


Keeping an Eye on Ocular Melanoma

Malignant melanoma of the eye – ocular melanoma – is rare. But there are common precursors of the disease. Dr. Scott Walter from the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute’s Melanoma and Skin Cancer Center is one of only two ocular oncologists practicing in Connecticut.   Q: What is ocular melanoma? A: Ocular...