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Caution urged for viewing Monday’s eclipse

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(The Center Square) – During the 2017 solar eclipse, more cases of eye damage were reported in Illinois than in nearly any other state. With Monday’s eclipse looming, safety should be top of mind.

Many ask Dr. Nina Goyal, president of the Illinois Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons, if looking directly at the eclipse can make a person blind.

“Yes, it can,” she said. “It can take as little as a minute to create a thermal burn on the retina. And you won’t even feel it.”

She said the retina is a sheet of nerves that allows you to see. A burn on retinal tissue damages a person’s vision for life.

After the 2017 eclipse, one New York patient who looked directly up at the eclipse with no eye protection said they did not feel anything. A few days later, however, she developed a blind spot in the center of her vision. Her doctor reported that the burn to her retina fit the outline of the crescent created by the solar eclipse.

Life with a blind spot in the central part of your vision means no more recognizing the faces of loved ones, no more reading, no more driving, and no more using computers.

Goyal and her husband are both ophthalmologists. They ordered ISO 12312-2 certified eclipse glasses directly from the manufacturer, the recommended option, for their family. But Goyal won’t be using them to view the eclipse.

With her back to the sun, she’ll be holding her trusty kitchen colander or spaghetti drainer, the kind with big holes, not mesh, to watch the eclipse shadow on a piece of white paper on the ground. The colander acts as a pinhole projector, creating many eclipse shadows.

“That’s an indirect viewing. All eye surgeons and ophthalmologists will always be in favor of that,” she said. “You get the fun of the viewing. You get that ellipsoid shape that decreases as the eclipse goes on, but you are not getting any of the UV rays.”

Another warning that Goyal wants everyone to be aware of is not to use a smartphone, a camera or a telescope to view the eclipse unless you use the recommended professional filters to protect your eyes.

“With a camera, you are still getting the UV light. In fact, it is actually magnified and even stronger,” she said.

Keep in mind that children’s eyes are much more vulnerable to UV eclipse rays than adults’ eyes are, she said. Parents need to supervise their children when they are using eclipse glasses. If a school is holding a group eclipse viewing, parents should consider being on hand at school to help the teachers, she said.

At home, kids enjoy making NASA-recommended pinhole viewers out of cereal boxes. Or they can grab a kitchen colander.

The eclipse is expected to begin Monday at approximately 1:59 p.m.