All eyes will be on the sky on Monday, April 8, as North America experiences the first total solar eclipse since 2017. The event will offer sky gazers a chance to experience a total solar eclipse throughout most of the U.S., Canada and Mexico, and will be the last time a solar eclipse will be visible in the contiguous U.S. until 2044.

Making sure people view the eclipse safely is the top priority of eyecare specialists and optical industry leaders, who have spent the last few months sharing tips and resources to reduce the chances of eye damage during the event. Solar retinopathy, a photochemical injury to the macular tissue or central retina, is usually the result of sungazing or not using the right protection when viewing an eclipse, experts note. The eye injury can occur in a matter of seconds and can leave permanent damage.

In March, the ophthalmologists at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai (NYEE) in New York City shared some important safety tips on how to prevent damage to the eyes when viewing the eclipse. NYEE eye doctors cited a case from the 2017 eclipse when a patient was treated at the hospital. Within a few hours after viewing the eclipse for 20 seconds without eye protection, the patient developed blurry distortion in both eyes and could only see the color black. After three days, the patient was found to have crescent-shaped retinal damage, the shape of the visible portion of the sun during the partial solar eclipse in New York City. The damage left the patient with untreatable, permanent damage to their vision.

Experts from the NYEE offered these tips to help eclipse viewers protect their vision during the solar eclipse.

  • Do not look directly at the sun or the sun’s rays during the eclipse without proper eye protection.

  • Only special-purpose solar filter sunglasses will protect your eyes. These glasses should be up to international safety standards and labeled as “ISO 12312-2” compliant. A pinhole camera is also safe to use to view the eclipse.

  • Do not use binoculars or special lenses that magnify the eclipse.

  • If you record the eclipse on your phone, do not look at the screen while it’s recording and watch the video later.

  • It is recommended to check the fit of solar eclipse glasses to ensure they are completely covering the face. Most glasses will be one size-fits all, which may leave gaps when worn by children. If solar eclipse glasses are unavailable, then welders’ glasses and mylar filters are a safe substitute.

Photographing the Eclipse

In a recent Today’s Read feature, VMAIL Weekend reported on the work of acclaimed solar eclipse photographer Jon Carmichael. His groundbreaking images have been featured in galleries around the world. In partnership with Carmichael, Prevent Blindness has released educational videos to highlight the experience of photographing an eclipse.

 This photo was shot from Chile at the Cerro Tololo Observatory in July 2019. © Jon Carmichael
If you are attempting to photograph the eclipse, Prevent Blindness offers these helpful tips. They stress that even though you don't have to be a professional to take pictures of the eclipse, it is recommended to take the same precautions as the experts.

  • Never look at the sun through the optical viewfinder of a mirrored SLR camera.

  • Don’t point your camera at the sun without a solar filter over the lens.

  • Use a solar filter over your phone’s camera.

  • Use a remote camera or timer.
In anticipation of the solar eclipse, Prevent Blindness embarked on a comprehensive education program for eyecare providers and their patients. The organization warned that even with solar eclipse glasses, it is important to take additional steps to prevent eye damage. This includes wearing eclipse glasses throughout the entire eclipse, even while photographing the event, to avoid accidentally viewing it with uncovered eyes.

More safety tips about photographing the solar eclipse can be found on the Prevent Blindness website.

Counterfeit Glasses

In recent weeks, the American Astronomical Society (AAS) has sounded the alarm over a wave of counterfeit and fake eclipse glasses entering the U.S. market. According to AAS, counterfeit solar viewers are made by one manufacturer but fraudulently printed with the name of a different manufacturer and their logo or artwork; these may or may not comply with safety standards. Other viewers are not just counterfeit, they are also fake in that they are sold as eclipse glasses but are not safe for solar viewing.

“Filters that provide safe, comfortable views of the sun generally transmit between 1 part in 100,000 (0.001 percent) and 1 part in 2,000,000 (0.00005 percent) of its visible light,” said Rick Fienberg, project manager of the AAS Solar Eclipse Task Force. “Solar filters are at least 1,000 times darker than even the darkest regular sunglasses.”

Fienberg recommends only purchasing glasses from a vetted vendor. He warned that there is no way to be sure if a pair of glasses is 100 percent authentic, adding you shouldn’t be able to see anything through them, except for very bright lights, which should appear very faint through the glasses.

“Staring at a partial solar eclipse for more than a few seconds at a time, even through perfectly safe solar viewers, isn’t much fun anyway,” said Fienberg. “It’s almost impossible to detect the moon’s motion across the sun in real time except with magnification, and you must never look through magnifying optics while wearing eclipse glasses.”

For tips on how to spot fake or unsafe eclipse glasses, click here.

In the last few weeks, several optical associations and eyewear companies have issued warnings about the dangers of viewing the eclipse without eye protection, and they have been sounding the alarm about counterfeit eclipse glasses.

The Vision Council, a nonprofit association with members spanning the optical industry, represents the U.S. during the creation and maintenance of international optical industry technical standards by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), including ISO 12312-2, the standard that all “filters for the direct observation of the sun” should meet.

“Industry standards help protect both manufacturers and consumers; they ensure everyone is aware of the minimum safety requirements necessary to preserve one of humanity’s most critical senses—sight,” said Michael Vitale, VP of membership, government relations and technical standards at The Vision Council. “Check that your eclipse glasses are marked with ISO 12312-2 and keep your eyes safe while viewing this once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

An expert on optical industry standards, Vitale leads The Vision Council’s participation in ISO and serves as secretariat for the Accredited Standards Committee of Ophthalmic Optics (ASC Z80) at the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Download The Vision Council’s Total Solar Eclipse Guide here.

For more information and resources about the April 8 eclipse, including a social media toolkit and links to authorized eclipse glasses retailers, visit Read the full story from VMAIL titled, The Vision Council Issues a Total Solar Eclipse Guide Titled, ‘Protect Your Eyes, See the Skies.’

Ahead of the total solar eclipse, MyEyeDr., a leading provider of eye health services with more than 850 locations in 27 states across the U.S., has been educating consumers about the importance of eye health and the need for proper eye protection while experiencing this once-in-a-lifetime event. Through this effort, and in partnership with Prevent Blindness, MyEyeDr. is giving away expert-approved solar eclipse glasses in 438 offices across 20 states in the eclipse’s path of totality.

Beginning March 25, prospective patients and community members were able to stop by their local MyEyeDr. to get a pair of free solar eclipse glasses, at participating locations while supplies lasted.

“We appreciate the opportunity to once again partner with Prevent Blindness to help educate people on the importance of eye health and protection, and there’s no better time to do so than this historical and exciting event that can have real eye health implications,” said MyEyeDr. chief medical officer Dr. Artis Beatty. “Through this partnership we hope to not only help our patients safely experience the solar eclipse, but also reinforce MyEyeDr.’s commitment to providing quality care and making a difference in the communities in which it serves.”

For more about how ECPs are using social media to remind followers to protect their eyes on Monday, read “Preparing for the Eclipse” from Vision Monday’s The Independent Eye e-newsletter.