This story was originally published on August 16, 2017. Update: The solar eclipse is happening today, August 21, 2017.
Amid all the hype surrounding next Monday's total solar eclipse, don't forget the one thing your mom probably told you the most growing up: Do not look directly at the sun. Unfortunately, the eclipse is no reason to break this rule. There are ways to celebrate — and even catch a glimpse of — the solar eclipse in action, but there are a few things you need to know before you attend your viewing party.
According to Janelle Routhier, OD, FAOO, senior director of customer development at vision company Essilor, regardless of what you may have heard, it is very unsafe to look at a solar eclipse with your naked eye. And no, your go-to pair of sunnies will not provide adequate protection.
Dr. Routhier explains you'll need a special pair of eclipse glasses that meet the requirements set by the International Standards Organization (ISO). These block 100% of UV rays and infrared light, in addition to 99.99% of what's known as intense visible light. Any glasses that meet the ISO standard should have the code ISO 12312-2 on them, but, in light of the news that fraudulent glasses were distributed (and subsequently recalled) by Amazon, the best way to be sure that your glasses are up to snuff is to bring them by your eye care provider, Dr. Routhier says. They'll be able to tell if your pair is safe.
However, if you live in the path of eclipse, it will be safe to take off your glasses at the moment of totality, Dr. Routhier says. It's only during these few minutes, when the moon blocks out the entire sun, that you can safely witness the eclipse with your naked eye. She adds that, even if you have a good two minutes to catch this phenomenon, do not get lost staring into the sun.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Dr. Routhier says, "but looking at the sun could also cause a lifetime of damage." She explains that UV rays from the sun can damage the outer structure of your eye, while the brightness and intensity of the sun's light can harm your eye's focal point.
And, for the record, "eclipse blindness is actually a thing," she says. Solar retinopathy, to use its technical name, occurs when the sun's light floods your retinas, potentially burning or scarring them. This can lead to blurred or fuzzy vision or, in some cases, vision loss. When in doubt, "be smart," Dr. Routhier says. "Don’t risk a lifetime of vision for a few minutes of viewing the eclipse."
For those of you who want to play it totally safe, your best bet is to livestream the event from the comfort of your preferred screen.