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Want to view the solar eclipse without damaging your eyes? Read this

Bonnie Tyler has some solid advice for you.

A solar eclipse as viewed through a solar filter.
A solar eclipse as viewed through a solar filter.
Image: Owen Humphreys

WE’VE ALL HEARD the warnings about why we shouldn’t look directly at the solar eclipse this morning.

The Association of Optometrists Ireland (AOI) has advised the public that prolonged exposure to direct sunrays can burn the retina.

Later today, there will be a total solar eclipse over the Northern Hemisphere at the Faroe Islands and a rare 92% partial eclipse over Ireland.

The eclipse will be visible from about 8.20am, peaking at around 9.30am and complete by 10.40am.

Astronomy Now has a breakdown of peak viewing times.

The AOI said the safest way to view the eclipse is to make a small hole in a card, hold it up to the sun and project the image on to the ground or a second piece of white card. People shouldn’t view the sun directly through the hole.

The eclipse can also be safely viewed through appropriate filters called eclipse glasses, which are available through astronomy clubs. It is essential that these glasses have no scratches or damage to the lenses.

Nigeria Partial Eclipse A man watches a partial solar eclipse through welding goggles in Lagos, Nigeria. Source: AP/Press Association Images

High protection welding goggles are also suitable (filter 14 or over), whereas sunglasses or 3D viewing glasses are not.

A sharper image can be obtained by using a pair of binoculars. The binoculars should be set up on a stand or tripod, with the lenses directed at the sun and the eyepiece focussing on a piece of white card. The sun must not be viewed through the binoculars or telescope directly under any circumstances.

“If the retina is damaged, vision is affected and it can take up to a year to heal, but in some cases there can be lasting damage known as solar retinopathy,” an AOI spokesperson said.

Specsavers Ireland has advised people to channel Bonnie Tyler’s hit Total Eclipse of the Heart, encouraging “enthralled bright-eyed spectators to ‘turnaround’ when observing the exciting event”.

We see what they did there.

Source: bonnietylerVEVO/YouTube

Sinead Clohessy, chairperson of Specsavers Ireland, added: “Nobody should ever look at the sun before, during or after a solar eclipse without protective eyewear. It is not safe to view a solar eclipse through any conventional sunglasses.”

Trinity College’s School of Physics has invited the public to watch the eclipse through telescopes at the university.

Photographing the eclipse

The last full eclipse took place in 1999 so lots of people are keen to photograph the event.

Solar Eclipse The 1999 solar eclipse. Source: Matthew Fearn

Canon has put together the below tips:

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Use a specialised solar filter

It’s important to use a specialised solar filter intended for solar viewing, sold by reputable astronomy shops. It will protect both your eyes and your camera. Don’t attempt to look through any optical viewfinder or photograph the sun without a proper solar filter fixed to the front of the lens.

Use natural pinholes

If you don’t have these solar filters, you can still safely capture the crescent shapes created by the eclipsed sun projected through a pinhole. Natural pinholes are created by the gaps between tree leaves and create the crescent shapes on the ground or adjacent walls. If you’re not near trees, you can make your own version by standing with your back to the sun and holding a colander or similar household item so the sunlight shines through the holes.

You can also write your name on paper in little pin-pricks and let the sunlight pass through it to spell your name on the ground. If you take multiple photos of this throughout the eclipse, you can document the eclipse progress.

Photograph the environment

Photograph the effects of the eclipse on the environment around you. Animals tend to perceive the change in light, even when we do not, so observe birds and other wildlife as they react to the eclipse. And look at your own shadow created by holding your fingers or hands at 90 degrees to each other — one shadow will be sharper than the other.

Could the solar eclipse cause blackouts in Ireland?

What is a solar eclipse and why is one happening tomorrow?

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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