A total solar eclipse will take place on August 21, 2017, and millions of people across the United States will be able to witness the celestial event. Named the Great American Eclipse, the event can be witnessed from quite a few places in the U.S. Residents of Idaho, Oregon, Wyoming, Nebraska, Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, South, and North Carolina will be able to see the Total Solar Eclipse. However, it is of utmost importance to take precautionary measures before witnessing this once in a lifetime phenomenon.

Protect your eyes during the upcoming solar eclipse

As we all know, a solar eclipse takes place when the sun and moon align with each other in a straight line while staying in their respective orbits. When the moon completely blocks the face of the sun, a rare spectacle known as “totality” takes place. The “totality” generally lasts for about 2 minutes 40 seconds. During this time, day becomes night and the natural light will be as bright as one sees during a full moon, thanks to the solar corona, which is the flaming border and the only part of the sun’s atmosphere that will be visible.

According to scientists at NASA, stargazers should look directly at the eclipse with bare eyes only during the totality and not before or after the occurrence of the event.

However, if one risks looking directly at the sun without protection before or after the totality, they may risk damage to their eyes. Looking directly at the sun during a solar eclipse may cause something known as solar retinopathy.

This health concern takes place when the sunlight floods our retina, which is located at the back of our eyeballs.

Due to this, the light-sensing cells in our eyes (named rods or cones) are compelled to release a deluge of communication chemicals that can damage the retina. More often than not, solar retinopathy is painless and, therefore, the individual senses nothing and does not even realize the damage that is taking place.

How to protect eyes during the solar eclipse?

NASA, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Astronomical Society, the National Science Foundation, and the American Academy of Optometry have laid down some common ground rules one must follow while witnessing a partial or total solar eclipse. According to the above-mentioned institutes and agencies, one must use either solar filters or handheld solar viewers to look safely at a partially eclipsed sun. However, home-made solar filters or even ordinary sunglasses - despite their darker shade - are not safe for looking at the sun directly during the celestial event. Apart from this, one must also not use a telescope, camera, or any type of optical device – unfiltered or filtered – to look at the sun.