Here’s How To Keep Your Eyes, Children And Pets Safe During The Total Solar Eclipse

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As millions of people across North America prepare to watch the Great American Eclipse, experts told Forbes how to safely enjoy the solar eclipse and how to keep pets and children safe too.

Here's How To Keep Your Eyes, Children And Pets Safe During The Total Solar Eclipse - 0x0 -
A woman observing a solar eclipse with her poodle in Hangzhou , China.Visual China Group via Getty Images

Key Facts

The most important advice to offer anyone “is to never look at the sun directly without protection,” Mount Sinai ophthalmologist Avnish Deobhakta said, warning that doing so can trigger potentially permanent eye damage within a matter of seconds.

The safest way of watching the eclipse would be to avoid looking at the sun entirely and make use of an indirect viewing method like a pinhole projector or to view footage of the phenomenon on a screen, said Aaron Zimmerman, a clinical professor at the Ohio State University College of Optometry.

Anyone hoping to watch the solar eclipse directly must view the phenomenon through a set of specially designed eclipse glasses, said Ralph Chou, an eclipse safety expert and professor emeritus at the University of Waterloo in Canada, explaining that the strong filters transmit only a small fraction of the sun’s light.

Children “are not especially vulnerable to the effects of sunlight on their eyes” and can enjoy the eclipse safely, though Chou warned they “may not understand how to look at the sun safely” and Zimmerman stressed that kids must be carefully supervised “to make sure that they are using eclipse glasses correctly.”

Deobhakta added children “are particularly at risk…as they may not quite understand the dangers involved,” urging parents to have “some type of plan” and remain “aware of where they are looking during the event.”

Can I Take My Eclipse Glasses Off?

For people in the path of totality—which includes parts of Mexico, Canada and the U.S.—it is possible to safely view some of the eclipse without glasses or other protection. Totality is where the moon fully blocks the sun, exposing the star’s outer atmosphere, called a corona, in a fiery halo. During the brief minutes of totality (precise times vary by location) it “is safe to remove protective eyewear to view the eclipse,” Zimmerman said. Protective gear must be put back on as soon as it becomes a partial eclipse again, he added, and it is not safe to remove glasses at other points of the eclipse.

How To Know If Your Eclipse Glasses Are Safe

Not just any lens will do for viewing the eclipse. Experts told Forbes it is important to ensure protective gear is up to code and filters in eclipse glasses must comply with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 12312-2 standard. Sunglasses, or even a stack of sunglasses, are woefully insufficient and do not come close to providing the protection needed to view the sun safely, Chou said. Deobhakta said he had seen numerous patients “sustain permanent damage using regular sunglasses that they thought were of the ISO standard, but were not.” Ultimately, Chou said “if you can see buildings or anything else through the filter, it is not a compliant model and should not be used.” It’s also possible to safely wear welding goggles or helmets to view the eclipse if they have sufficiently strong filters with a shade number of 12-14, Zimmerman said. Finally, experts said it’s key to ensure protective kit is acquired from a reputable vendor and Deobhakta pointed to counterfeit protective products sold during the 2017 eclipse. Protective gear should also be in good condition and people should also avoid using glasses that are “cracked or damaged in any way.”

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Tangent

There isn’t a great deal to consider when it comes to ensuring animals are safe during the eclipse. “Pets will be fine,” said North Carolina State University biologist Adam Hartstone-Rose. “Unlike some foolish humans, animals know better than to look at the sun.” Mark Freeman, a clinical associate professor at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine said eclipses are one “of those instances where our pets are actually “smarter” than we are,” explaining that “animals don’t look directly at the sun (as) it is painful, and they have no reason to do it.” The changing conditions could prompt some animals to behave as if night has fallen, such as preparing for sleep or, Hartstone-Rose added, have some pets potentially expecting their evening meal. The unexpected loss of daylight could spark confusion or fear-like responses like looking for a place to hide in some animals, Freeman said, adding that this could be mitigated by leaving pets inside with the lights on. Pets take many cues from the humans around them and being calm around them during the eclipse will help ensure they don’t react negatively. “If animals are skittish, it might be useful to put them away,” Hartstone-Rose said, adding that “people do silly things during eclipses,” with some cheering or even launching fireworks in 2017. “As many Texans will experience the eclipse, I would be astonished if there was not some celebratory gun fire too,” Hartstone-Rose said, adding that “if your animals are far enough away from exuberant people, I don’t think there is anything to worry about.”

What We Don’t Know

Hartstone-Rose was part of a team studying the behavior of zoo animals during the 2017 solar eclipse. While almost all animals displayed no noticeable response or acted as if night had fallen, “two species did weird things.” The siamangs, a type of gibbon, “made strange calls,” Hartstone-Rose said, and Galapagos tortoises started mating. “No clue why,” he said. Hartstone-Rose said he is hoping to use the 2024 eclipse to boost our understanding further, encouraging anyone spending time with “their pets, or farm animals, or ANY animal” during the event to report their observations. Protocols for the citizen science project are available on SolarEclipseSafari.org.

Source: Forbes

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