Safely Watch the Solar Eclipse

Published by: Rebecca Richmond, COT and Dr. Robert Castrovinci, Ophthalmologist at Divine Savior Healthcare


There are many miraculous things about the universe, and on Monday, August 21, 2017, we will get to experience one of them. A solar eclipse will be visible across North America (weather permitting), and those in Wisconsin should have an excellent view. Divine Savior Healthcare Ophthalmology encourages the community to experience this phenomenon, but also stresses the importance of doing so safely.


A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and earth and the moon partially or fully blocks the sun's light.  Total eclipses occur about twice a year but are seen in different parts of the globe. 


The North American continent will experience a partial eclipse lasting 2 to 3 hours. Halfway through the event, anyone within a roughly 70 mile-wide path from Oregon to South Carolina will experience a brief total eclipse. At that point, the moon will completely cover the face of the sun for up to 2 minutes 40 seconds.


Watching a solar eclipse is a memorable experience, but looking directly at the sun, even during an eclipse, can cause serious damage to your eyes. Staring at the sun for even a short time without wearing the right eye protection can permanently damage your retina.  Regular sunglasses do not protect your eyes.


There is only one safe way to look directly at the eclipse, and that is by using special purpose solar filters. These solar filters are used in “eclipse glasses” or in hand-held solar viewers. They must meet a very specific worldwide standard known as ISO 12312-2.  These filters are similar to those worn by welders.


The intense light and UV radiation from the sun can create enough heat in the eye to damage the retinal cells.  This is called Solar Retinopathy and when it occurs, the retina can be permanently damaged.


The total eclipse on August 21, 2017 will occur at approximately 1:15 pm, and last for approximately 2 minutes and 40 seconds. You may notice the effects of the eclipse from about 11:50 am until 2:47pm.  Since Wisconsin is not in the path of the total eclipse those watching here will need solar filters to view the eclipse safely.  The following is a graphic of the eclipse path.  Wisconsin will be in a 0.9 to 0.8 magnitude path, or nearly total.


Steps to follow for safely watching a solar eclipse:

  • Carefully check your solar filter or eclipse glasses before using them. If you see any scratches or damage, do not use them. Defects in the lens may permit unfiltered light into your eye and cause permanent damage.
  • Always read and follow all directions that come with the solar filters. Help children to be sure they use handheld solar viewers and eclipse glasses correctly.
  • Before looking up at the sun, stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer. After glancing at the sun, turn away and remove your filter—do not remove it while looking at the sun.
  • The only time that you can look at the sun without a solar viewer is during a total eclipse. When the moon completely covers the sun’s bright face and it suddenly gets dark, you can remove your solar filter to watch this unique experience. Then, as soon as the bright sun begins to reappear very slightly, immediately use your solar viewer again to watch the remaining partial phase of the eclipse.
  • Never look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars or other devices. This is important even if you are wearing eclipse glasses or holding a solar viewer at the same time. The intense solar rays coming through these devices will damage the solar filter and your eyes.
  • Please remember, regular sunglasses of any type will not protect your eyes and using them to view the eclipse will cause permanent retinal damage.


Phases and Local Madison Times of this Eclipse




http://www.dshealthcare.com/sites/dshealthcare.com/assets/images/News-Events/Start-Solar-Eclipse.jpg  http://www.dshealthcare.com/sites/dshealthcare.com/assets/images/News-Events/Max-Solar-Eclipse.jpg  http://www.dshealthcare.com/sites/dshealthcare.com/assets/images/News-Events/End-Solar-Eclipse.jpg

11:50 am Aug 21

1:15 pm Aug 21

2:37 pm Aug 21

If, at any point in time you are concerned that your eyes may have been damaged from intense light or UV radiation, it is recommended to seek medical attention. Dr. Robert Castrovinci, Ophthalmologist at Divine Savior Healthcare is available to see patients regarding this matter and any other eye health related concern. To contact the ophthalmology clinic at Divine Savior for an appointment or information on insurance coverage, please call 608-745-5919.

The Divine Savior Healthcare Gift Shop will have a limited supply of adult eclipse glasses available for purchase starting Monday, July 24th.  The gift shop is open Monday – Friday, 9:30 am – 4:30 pm and can be reached at 608-745-5120.

For more information about where to get the proper eyewear or handheld viewers, check out the American Astronomical Society web site or the NASA web sites.




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