Don't Get Blinded By the Light: Safe Viewing of the Solar Eclipse in Northwest Georgia

The last time anyone in Georgia was so excited about a solar eclipse …. cataract surgery left people wearing super thick, Coke-bottle glasses, and I would bet that no one reading this blog was even alive. Most school children made pinhole cameras (NASA gives step by step instructions here), and it wasn’t widely known how important it is to protect your eyes during an eclipse.

Avoid Permanent Eye Damage

Today, we are very aware of the damage you can do by looking directly at the sun.  You want to avoid it because you may get solar retinopathy, or damage to your retina.  The retina is a thin layer of nervous tissue in the back of the eye that acts like camera film and takes light and turns it into images you can see and interpret. 

It only takes a short period of looking directly at the sun, including during the solar eclipse, to damage your eyes.  Resulting symptoms could be blind spots, loss of central vision, or straight line distortion, among others. And the hardest thing to really grasp – it doesn’t hurt while you are looking directly at the sun – but in the blink of an eye (sorry, couldn’t help myself) you could be causing permanent damage that will hurt your vision later. 

Viewing The Eclipse The Right Way

So if you can’t look at the sun, what is a solar eclipse viewer to do?  There are very specific certifications for glasses that you can use to look at the sun. Be sure your glasses are legitimate and up to date.  There have been many reports of people being sold glasses with older, less protective lenses and “fakes” with the wrong certification printed on the lenses intentionally to scam buyers.  These have even been sold accidentally through reputable resellers like Amazon.  See the approved list of eclipse glasses sales agents here, and be aware that you may have to pay a pretty penny for certified, authentic glasses.

The other problem of course is that the eclipse begins at 1:03 on Monday, August 21, reaches its zenith at 2:34 (this is when it will be really, really dark), and ends at 3:59 pm.  So, unless you are prepared to sit outside in the heat of the day (yes the temperature will drop during the eclipse, but if we are lucky it might swing from the projected high on Monday of 88 degrees to 75 degrees or so – for about two minutes), your best bet might be to watch the eclipse on television. 

No Need To Stress About Watching It Live In Today's World

Whether you have the ability to watch NASA TV for the entire event, or you just watch the recap on the evening news, you are guaranteed to have an excellent view and to keep your eyes safe.  On top of that, if you have to work from 9 to 5, you won’t really be able to watch it live because you will be working away at your fabulous job.

Truly, this solar eclipse is a great opportunity to learn about this wonderful universe we inhabit, and to teach our children to be “citizen scientists.” It is fun and informative to read about how the 1918 eclipse was seen in Georgia by looking at old front page headlines in the Atlanta Journal (in 2017 most of us don’t worry much about our chickens returning to roost because they get confused about the dark and think it is night).   And we know that the next full solar eclipse in Georgia will be in April of 2024, so we have plenty of time to make pinhole cameras!