Full solar eclipse. 
Community News, Faculty Feature | 3/28/2024

Solar Safety: View the Eclipse Without Damaging Your Eyes

By Maaha Rafique

Full solar eclipse. 

MCPHS optometry professor shares how to protect your eyes while viewing the April 8 solar eclipse.

On April 8, a near-total solar eclipse will be visible across MCPHS campuses in Boston, Worcester, and Manchester. Even though the University's three locations are not on the "path of totality," we will still experience a rare celestial event, with the moon blocking out about 93 percent of the sun.

Because eye safety is a big concern during a solar eclipse, Dr. Larry Baitch, Associate Dean for Research and optometry professor at MCPHS, shares some tips before looking up to the sky.

Never Look Directly at the Sun

The sun's brightness is not only uncomfortable, it's dangerous. Baitch teaches optometry students in Worcester about the effects of radiation on the eyes. He says you can think about the eclipse's impact on your eyes in relation to a common childhood activity.

"As a kid, you might have taken a magnifying glass and concentrated the sun's light on a piece of paper or something to get it burning. That's essentially what's happening when you look at the sun. You have a very high-powered lens in your eye, and the concentration of light will burn the retina," Baitch said.

Wear Proper Safety Glasses

Safely view the eclipse with special glasses with filters to block the sun's harmful rays. You can purchase special eclipse glasses from many sources online, and they may also be available for free at your local library. Baitch says to ensure the glasses you're using have a seal from the International Standards Organization that certifies they meet safety requirements for direct solar viewing.

Sunglasses Alone Are Not Safe

The optics of regular sunglasses do not filter out enough light to protect your eyes. "It is important that people understand sunglasses are not sufficient," Baitch said. Additionally, just because the moon blocks most of the sun during a total eclipse doesn't mean you don't need eye protection — the rays are still sufficient to cause eye damage.

Pinhole Projection

If you can't get your hands on eclipse glasses, try an indirect method like a pinhole projector. "Take a piece of paper and make a small hole in it, and it will project the image of the eclipse on a piece of paper behind it," Baitch said. With the sun behind your shoulder, hold the paper, index card, or shoebox so that the sun shines on it at a 90-degree angle. Hold a second card about arm's length in line with the pinhole card and the sun, and you will see the eclipse image projected upon the second card. The further the second card is from the pinhole card, the larger the projection image.

What Eclipse Watchers Can Expect in Boston, Manchester and Worcester

The partial eclipse begins at 2:15 p.m. and ends at about 4:39 p.m. in all three cities. Boston and Worcester will experience a 93 percent peak blockage while Manchester will land at 95 percent.

More Things to Know About Eye Health

In this episode of the MCPHS podcast The Secret of Living to 200, Dr. Joseph Stamm describes the innovation he’s witnessed as an optometrist and gives helpful guidance on keeping the eyes as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

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