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There will be a total solar eclipse on Monday, August 21st 2017, a cosmic event that only happens about every 18 months. This year is quite special, because it will be the first time a total solar eclipse has gone from one American coast to the other since 1918, earning it the nickname “The Great American Eclipse”. But while both young and old are getting excited about witnessing the moon completely covering the sun, one man wants to share his story to warn people about the dangers of watching the eclipse without proper protection.

Man With Permanent Vision Damage Warns the Public

Lou Tomoski of Oregon witnessed a solar eclipse in 1962- he was still in high school at the time. Along with a group of friends, Lou waited with anticipation for the big moment; unfortunately, none of them heeded their teacher’s advice to watch the eclipse through a pinhole projector. As Lou and his friends watched the moon appear to cover the sun, there were still some sun rays slipping through the edges of the moon’s outline, and they were powerful enough to permanently damage his vision.

“We were just doing it for a short time,” he said. “I have a little blind spot in the center of my right eye.” Lou remembers seeing flickers of light after watching the eclipse (most people recognize the sensation from a camera flash, for instance). But when the flickers went away, Lou was left with a permanent blind spot in his right eye and one of his friends had a blind spot in his left eye. (1)

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The condition is known as solar retinopathy, and it is most common when people attempt to look at a solar eclipse, however, it can also happen to pilots or even sun-bathers. Even sunglasses cannot protect your eyes from the sun’s powerful rays, so you should never look into the sun even with protection from sunglasses.

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“I am just so concerned that somebody isn’t going to listen,” Lou told Today. “I am going to be out in the eclipse, but I am not going to look at the sun at any circumstances, even in the totality.” (1)

So, how can you and your family safely enjoy the solar eclipse this Monday?

How to Watch a Solar Eclipse Safely

The American Astronomical Society warns, “Looking directly at the Sun is unsafe except during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse (“totality”), when the Moon entirely blocks the Sun’s bright face, which will happen only within the narrow path of totality.” (2) Only certain areas in North America will be in the path of totality (and will experience total darkness). People in all other areas should not remove their eclipse glasses or solar filters at any point.

If you don’t have access to eclipse glasses or solar filters, you can also safely view a solar eclipse through a pinhole projector (which Lou’s teachers had advised him to use). Luckily, you can easily make one yourself at home using common items like a shoebox or ceral box! Watch this tutorial for easy instructions:

It is not safe to view an eclipse through a camera lens either (in fact, this can damage both your eyes and your camera).

When and Where Is the 2017 Solar Eclipse Happening?

Photo Credit: NASA

The solar eclipse will be making its way across North America on Monday, and what you’ll see and when will depend on your location. You can download an eclipse calculator from iTunes for your phone or tablet. Choose a city, pick your coordinates, and the app can tell you what to expect at what time in your exact area. To find out if you’ll be able to see a total eclipse from your area, check out this Google Map guide.

Just remember to stay safe!

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