Kids & The Solar Eclipse

Posted on August 07, 2017

Kids & The Solar Eclipse

By:  Jeffrey Colburn, MD

The excitement continues to build with regards to the total solar eclipse only 2 weeks away on August 21st.  A solar eclipse occurs when the moon comes between the sun and the earth and its shadow blocks out the view of some or all of the sun.  It has been 26 years since a total solar eclipse was visible in the United States (and that was in Hawaii in 1991).  But it has been 99 years since the last total solar eclipse that passed across the whole country from west to east coast!  No wonder there is so much excitement.

We have been spreading the word regarding being careful about eye protection during the solar eclipse.  We want everyone to see and enjoy this spectacular astronomical event.  But we want you to do so safely without burning the retina inside your eyes and suffering with a lifetime of vision loss.  

Children are particular at risk this time around.  Usually children do not injure their eyes with sun-gazing because they instinctively know not to look at the sun and are greatly bothered by the bright light.  However, in a solar eclipse, when most of the sun is blocked out and the light seems relatively dim, children may not have the same inhibitions and may succumb to the excitement of the event and stare at the sun.  But even a small amount of direct sunlight into the eyes for more than a few moments can permanently damage the inside of the eyes.  Since the eclipse will never be total as viewed here in Spokane, there will never be a safe moment to look directly at the sun.  Another factor is that children will be out of school for the eclipse this year and will definitely have the opportunity to view it, perhaps without good supervision.

Please get yourself and especially your children protective solar filter glasses to view the eclipse.  The appropriate protective eye wear must meet the ISO 12312-2 international safety standards.  Look for this number on the product before you buy it.  The American Astronomical Society has published a list of "Reputable Vendors of Solar Filters & Viewers" (https://eclipse.aas.org/resources/solar-filters).  

Don't delay in getting the appropriate protective gear for you and your family so you can enjoy this amazing event!