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Can you really go blind watching a solar eclipse? Real life cautionary tales.

When the ophthalmologist looked into a 26-year-old's eye in 2017, it was a worst-case scenario. The distinctive contours of the solar eclipse the woman stared at days prior were etched onto her retina.

The case of the Staten Island woman who watched the eclipse through faulty glasses was notable enough to be chronicled by doctors from Mount Sinai's New York Eye and Ear Infirmary in JAMA Ophthalmology, a medical journal, because these cases are, luckily, rare.

“It's a very focused beam of high-energy light from the sun itself,” said Dr. Avnish Deobhakta, an ophthalmologist at the Mount Sinai infirmary who treated the woman. “It can actually destroy parts of the retina, and certainly destroy it in the shape of an eclipse.”

The woman told Mount Sinai doctors she had gazed at the moon passing in front of the sun through what she believed were protective glasses. In scans, the damage on her left retina, the area at the back of the eye where the brain receives images, resembled the shape of a partial eclipse. She told a local TV station that year when she closed her eyes, she saw a sun-eating-moon image that "looked like Pac-Man" or "a crescent moon."

Looking up when you're within the 115-mile-wide path when the moon completely covers the sun for a few minutes is safe, experts say. But directly staring at the sun before and after the total eclipse, or watching a partial eclipse outside the path of totality without proper eye protection can result in permanent damage including blurred and altered vision.

While rare, eye damage from watching a partial eclipse happens because a person's natural response to squint when looking at sunlight does not get triggered. In the leadup to the April 8 solar eclipse, doctors and a rare set of eclipse watchers are warning about watching this planetary event without adequate eclipse glasses or with the naked eye.

It’s hard for experts to know or even estimate how many people experience eye damage from solar eclipses. Since looking at an eclipse does not cause complete blindness, people with permanent damage may not know they have it or report it to a doctor. The 2017 eclipse, which passed from Oregon to South Carolina, is thought to have caused about 100 cases, according to the American Astronomical Society. A national survey by NASA and the University of Michigan estimated over 150 million people witnessed that eclipse.

The 2024 eclipse is expected to have more people watching because it is passing over several large cities in the U.S. and Mexico.

Experts urge people to plan before they head outside to stare at the sun.

“Human nature is to take a shortcut anywhere we can,” Dr. Ron Benner, an optometrist in Montana and the president of the American Optometric Association, a professional group, told USA TODAY. “But in this case, shortcuts can cause permanent damage.”

When there isn’t an eclipse, humans naturally squint or are forced to look away from the sun’s brightness. People often also wear sunglasses to protect against harmful UV rays.

But during a partial eclipse, the moon’s shadow allows people to stare at the sun longer without experiencing that intense glare. The high-energy rays cast down during that time are akin to a laser pinpointing at the eye. Without feeling the usual sting in their eyes, people are exposed to harmful rays for a longer period, Deobhakta said.

There's a misconception that eye damage of this nature is a sunburn, said Benner, from the optometric association. Dangerous light and radiation exposure, when you turn your eyes directly to the sun, can permanently damage retinal cells at the back of the eye. The retina plays an essential role in helping the brain process images.

About four hours after the Staten Island woman watched the eclipse – with glasses she thought were protective – her vision became blurry and color distorted, according to the JAMA study from Mount Sinai.

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by Anonymousreply 24April 1, 2024 2:47 AM

The safest way to avoid eye damage, is, of course, not looking at the partial eclipse. Although few are as cautious as eye experts, Deobhakta and Benner recommend watching the upcoming eclipse on TV. They both also suggest that millions who plan to watch in person take steps to protect themselves against eye damage.

A very safe way to watch is to turn your back to the eclipse and watch its shadows using a pinhole projection of light. You can create a pinhole by crisscrossing your fingers and letting the light project through them onto the ground. You can also hold up an index card with a hole in it or a pasta colander or any item with small holes and let the sunlight pass through it onto the ground or a wall.

You can also use specially designed glasses. The American Astronomical Society publishes a list of approved glasses that meet the international standard of ISO 12312-2, meaning they will protect your eyes from injury and provide a comfortable view of the eclipse.

Rick Fienberg, project manager for the American Astronomical Society’s solar eclipse task force, reviews reports on the glasses to ensure they’ve been adequately tested.

“It’s a bit of a jungle out there, but there’s more than 100 suppliers listed on our site,” said Fienberg, who’s watched 14 prior eclipses and plans to watch the April eclipse in Mexico. “There’s no reason to just go to Amazon, Google or Etsy, or anything, and search for eclipse glasses.”

He suggests going to that list and buying directly from a manufacturer. The astronomical society also recently warned of counterfeit glasses and offered guidance on spotting unsafe products.

Childhood friends Lou Tomososki and Roger Duvall, both 77, have told cautionary tales for years about the day in the early 1960s when each of them burned an eye squinting up at a partial solar eclipse.

The two men, teenagers at the time, watched without protection, from the baseball diamond at their high school in Portland, Oregon. Tomososki, a retired semi-truck driver, and Duvall, a former employee at a rental car company, remember their science teacher telling them about the upcoming eclipse and warning about eye damage.

After looking at the eclipse for about 20 seconds, Tomososki developed a grayish spot in the middle of his right eye, while Duvall now has a similar dark spot in his left eye. Duvall said he visited a doctor the day after the eclipse when he noticed his vision loss.

Despite the eye damage, both men served in the military after high school. Most of the time, they don't think about the damage. It's only when they close an eye that they notice it.

During a phone interview, Tomososki mentioned that he was looking at a daffodil from afar, but the blot in the middle of his eye blocked the yellow bulb. Instead, that portion of the flower looked like when a person's face is blurred on TV.

Both men have made it a point to warn people about eclipses. They will surely be warning folks again this year.

“I'm more aware of it than your average person walking down the street,” Tomososki said. “Because I got kind of a personal involvement with Mr. Sun.”

by Anonymousreply 1March 24, 2024 6:21 PM

Fake news!

by Anonymousreply 2March 24, 2024 6:29 PM

We used to look at it through 2 pieces of exposed b&w film negative. Almost everyone used to have exposed negatives (which were returned to you with your photos from the developer, and which you kept, to print another set of photos from). It had to be the black part, at the end of the film reel. It’s what many astronomers used to use and has been well-tested. Unfortunately very few people have any of that around the house today.

by Anonymousreply 3March 24, 2024 6:35 PM

My cautionary tale is to not stand ANYWHERE near Dolores Claiborne during an eclipse!

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by Anonymousreply 4March 24, 2024 6:38 PM

The title should be “Can you really go blind staring into the sun?”

by Anonymousreply 5March 24, 2024 6:56 PM

Anyone watching an eclipse should use one of these...

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by Anonymousreply 6March 24, 2024 7:14 PM

I have seen a ring of damage about the macular of one poor person who had looked directly at the sun during a full eclipse. It was months after the eclipse had occurred and the damage was permanent. Prior to the eclipse there had been such a lot of advice given in all modes of media (in 1999, so no social media to dilute its effect) but this poor person didn't take notice. I have seen photos of such an injury taken pretty much at the time of the burn. The whole thing was a blurry mess, but when the swelling goes down the ring of damage is clearly visible.

by Anonymousreply 7March 24, 2024 7:50 PM

r7 That made me wonder about all those poor folk who stared at the eclipses in the pre-modern times and whose lives got even shittier because their eyesight worsened. Yikes.

by Anonymousreply 8March 24, 2024 8:18 PM

I'll get back with you in a couple of weeks.

by Anonymousreply 9March 24, 2024 8:37 PM

Now I'm worried that the glasses I bought on Amazon are fakes. How do you spot fakes?

by Anonymousreply 10March 24, 2024 8:50 PM

For R10:

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by Anonymousreply 11March 24, 2024 9:48 PM

I've heard about going blind from staring at an eclipse and seeing the flash from a nuclear bomb since I was a little kid.

I've always been afraid of not being able to resist the urge to look.

by Anonymousreply 12March 24, 2024 10:23 PM

[quote] I've always been afraid of not being able to resist the urge to look.

Tell me about it!

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by Anonymousreply 13March 24, 2024 11:23 PM

That sounds cool. Like an eye tattoo. I am going to look at the eclipse without protection now. Just like I do my sex.

by Anonymousreply 14March 24, 2024 11:36 PM

Remember this?

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by Anonymousreply 15March 24, 2024 11:40 PM

Looking forward to the Gen Z Tik Tokkers burning out the image sensor of their phone’s cameras for likes and clicks!

by Anonymousreply 16March 25, 2024 12:08 AM

r15 but that jerk squinted when he looked so he was probably protected. nothing happens to him anyway.

by Anonymousreply 17March 25, 2024 1:43 AM

I’m tired of my local tv station spending every fucking day counting down til April 8. Stupid bastards.

by Anonymousreply 18March 25, 2024 9:39 PM

I have heard a demon will come and will turn us all blind.

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by Anonymousreply 19March 31, 2024 10:02 AM

I'm ashamed and embarrassed to admit that I stared at the eclipse back in 1993. Our teacher kept drilling us about how you should NEVER stare at the sun, so of course my 13-year-old dumb ass took that as a challenge to do just that. I cringe whenever I think about it.

by Anonymousreply 20March 31, 2024 10:30 AM

An eclipse is just a lizard-people engineered hallucination so they can surreptitiously wipe down gawkers with lemon pledge (it was never about non-waxy buildup).

Stay indoors, keep a flute or recorder handy. Jethro Tull works, too!

by Anonymousreply 21March 31, 2024 10:39 AM
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by Anonymousreply 22March 31, 2024 10:40 AM

This dude shows you how to be sure your eclipse viewers are safe.

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by Anonymousreply 23March 31, 2024 12:05 PM

Listen to this elderly tranny. She tells about the societal changes after the eclipse.

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by Anonymousreply 24April 1, 2024 2:47 AM
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