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Eye Specialists warn not to look directly at the solar eclipse – even with filtered glasses

On Friday the 10th of May an annular solar eclipse will occur across Northern Australia passing through Tennant Creek and North of Cooktown. Unlike the total solar eclipse that was seen in Cairns in November 2012 the moon does not cover the sun completely in an annular eclipse, so almost all of Australia and New Zealand will experience a partial eclipse which is dangerous to the eyes. The eclipse occurs during the morning for a duration of up to 3 hours so check local times.

Ophthalmologist Dr Oben Candemir, warns that while looking directly at the sun at any time should never be done, it is especially dangerous during any phase of an annular eclipse. During partial eclipse phases our normal “aversion response” to the bright sun is reduced risking prolonged, unprotected, direct viewing and consequent eye damage.

It is important to recognise the dangers of looking directly at the sun during an eclipse. There are risks associated with all forms of direct viewing of the sun; solar filters, unprotected viewing or viewing through optical instruments.

Children and teenagers are most vulnerable to solar damage to their eyes due to the transmission characteristics of their eyes; their lack of experience in using solar filters properly and incomplete understanding of the dangers.

A 1999 UK study* of the solar eclipse in Europe, found that of those experiencing solar retinopathy, 56% of people received retinal burns when looking directly at the eclipse without protection, 30% received burns from homemade or nonstandard filters and 14% received burns when using commercially sold solar filter glasses.

Both the 2012 transit of Venus and the Curiosity Mars landing attracted huge audiences via internet live streaming on CSIRO and NASA websites.

This is an excellent, safe way to view the eclipse and several agencies are expected to provide this service. It provides a safe indoor environment for children while fostering an interest in science.

All forms of direct viewing are not recommended. “I strongly recommend you keep your back to the eclipse and either view it safely indoors on a computer or if an outdoor experience is necessary or desired, to use an indirect viewing method like a pinhole camera to project an image onto another surface.”

“You wouldn’t normally look directly at the sun, so don’t do it during an eclipse where the dangers are in many ways greater,” warns Dr Candemir.

The internet link to the live stream of the annular eclipse event is: http://www.space.com

Last updated: November 28, 2018

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