Healthwise: Avoiding eye damage from an eclipse

Published: Oct. 9, 2023 at 9:51 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 9, 2023 at 11:01 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Millions of people will be looking up into the sky late Saturday morning to get a peek at the annular eclipse, in which the moon passes directly in front of the sun.

The City of Lubbock is warning people not to peak at the eclipse without protection; it could be a dangerous experience.

Dr. Kelly Mitchell is an ophthalmologist at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center. He says those who do not look at the eclipse correctly, could suffer from solar retinopathy, something that can cause severe and permanent vision loss.

While looking at the normal sun is very uncomfortable, he says an eclipse may not seem as hard on the eyes, but it is.

“The harmful radiation that is emanating from an eclipse is just as dangerous, if not more so to your eye,” Mitchell says.

Mitchell says people cannot just pull out their sunglasses for the show, because even the darkest ones money can buy are not safe enough for an eclipse.

“The only filters that are safe enough to look directly at an eclipse are this special filter 12312-2 and a welder’s helmet, filter 14 or darker,” he explains.

There is another way to safely view an eclipse. It is an indirect method that kids learn in school.

Mitchell shows how to create a pinhole and use that to position the image of the eclipse through the pinhole, with one’s back to the eclipse the whole time.

Another tip: Do not misunderstand an eclipse feature that is listed in a lot of cell phones.

Mitchell says that is intended to protect the camera, not the eyes.

However, there is one way people can use a cell phone with their back to the eclipse.

“In the selfie mode, where again safely the eclipse is over your back and you’re looking at the eclipse as you would look at your own face, and the selfie mode of your camera,” he says.

The City of Lubbock says the best time to view the eclipse will be at 10:15 a.m.

ADDITIONAL COVERAGE: Where to get proper eye protection for upcoming solar eclipse