Don't Eclipse Your Eye Health

News & Events

Women viewing the solar eclipse using pinhole cards

When using a pinhole card to view a solar eclipse, remember to keep your back to the sun and line-up the cards until you can see the eclipse image cast on the bottom of the card. Do not use the card to look directly at the solar eclipse.

Northern Nevada, along with the rest of the nation, is buzzing with excitement over the upcoming celestial phenomenon – the first total solar eclipse viewable from the contiguous U.S. since 1979. When planning your solar eclipse viewing experience, remember to make eye safety a top priority.

Even though the moon will cover 80 percent of the sun at the eclipse apex in Reno on Monday, Aug. 21, it’s still not safe to look directly at it without proper eye protection. UNR Med Community Faculty Member and Managing Partner and Director of Clinical Research at Sierra Eye Associates Arshad M. Khanani, M.D., M.A. explains:

“Watching the solar eclipse without appropriate protective glasses can result in permanent damage to the eye. The rays from the sun can damage the retina, which is like a camera film in the back of the eye. Damage can occur in a matter of seconds and is painless. This is called ‘Solar Retinopathy.’ The cells in the central vision are permanently affected leading to decreased or distorted sight and black or missing spots.”

So without proper protection, you could experience permanent eye damage. But your solar eclipse experience doesn’t have to be scary. Dr. Khanani describes how to enjoy an eye damage-free solar eclipse:

“There are two safe options to view the eclipse. The first option is to use ‘eclipse’ glasses that contain the appropriate solar-filters and meet the specific worldwide standard known as ISO 12312-2. The second option is to view the eclipse indirectly by making a ‘pinhole.’” Dr. Khanani warns, “It is important to remember that regular sun glasses, telescopes or binoculars cannot be used to watch the eclipse.”

While eclipse shades for safe viewing are increasingly difficult to find, the “pinhole” provides a safe, indirect viewing option that is also fun and interactive. Dan Ruby, Fleischmann Planetarium director recommends the “easy-to-make-and-use” viewing tool and says, “We [Fleischmann Planetarium] have pre-punched pinhole viewer cards with instructions available for free at our front desk, and our staff are happy to demonstrate how they work.”

If your heart is set on viewing the eclipse through a special, ISO 12312-2 pair of eclipse glasses, however, Ruby suggests, “Since the partial eclipse lasts for well over two hours on Monday morning, there should be ample opportunity to find friends, neighbors or co-workers lucky enough to get glasses ahead of time willing to share!”

The Fleishmann Planetarium will be open at 9 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 21 with specially-filtered scopes set up for solar viewing throughout the morning.

For more information on safe solar eclipse viewing, visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology or the American Astronomical Society.

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Julie Ardito, APR
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Office: (775) 682-9254

The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, Nevada's first public medical school, is a community-based, research-intensive medical school with a statewide vision for a healthy Nevada. Established in 1969, UNR Med is improving the health and well-being of all Nevadans and their communities through excellence in student education, postgraduate training and clinical care, research with local, national and global impact and a culture of diversity and inclusion.