A spectacular ‘ring of fire’ solar eclipse on Oct. 14 will be a sight worth viewing, but only with proper eye protection, according to Northeastern University experts.
“It’s dangerous to look at the eclipse without eye protection because of the ultraviolet light from the sun. Your natural defenses don’t work during an eclipse,” says Jonathan Blazek, an assistant professor of physics at Northeastern who has an expertise in astrophysics.
“It’s never safe to look directly at the sun, but normally it’s too bright to look at for long. Your pupils constrict to prevent too much light from getting in,” he says.
With even a partial eclipse of the sun, “there can still be dangerous UV light, but the sun is much less bright overall,” which affects the pupils’ ability to shrink and block waves of UV light, Blazek says.
And without proper protection, that can spell fast and permanent damage to the retina, the layer of cells lining the back wall inside the eye.
“The lenses in your eyes focus light onto the retina of your eyes. With a very powerful light source like the sun, all that light gets focused on one tiny spot and does a nice job of burning holes in your retina,” says Jacqueline McCleary, Northeastern assistant physics professor and observational cosmologist.
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