On Monday, people across the United States will watch the sun turn black. This is the first coast-to-coast eclipse in 99 years.
It will be a starry-afternoon on my farm. It is estimated that 360,000 and 1,440,000 people will travel to my home state of Tennessee to view the eclipse. Sweetwater, a town neighboring our rural farmland, is expecting 50,000 to 60,000 people to descend upon their city to attend their Eclipse Party. It will be a day filled with music, Moon Pies, and astronomical revelry. However, it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt, right?
Manfred Man’s Earthband sang in their iconic hit about being “Blinded by the Light”. And this late-1970s song is one we might want to keep on repeat Monday as a staunch warning not to look at the sun. Because, as Gil Gilbert—my extended relative– found out, being blinded by the light can really happen.
Gilbert, a successful videographer stationed in Chattanooga, TN, warns us, in this true-life cautionary tale, of what happens when you take a look at the eclipse with your bare eye.
First posted on his FB page, he says: “Let me affirm and warn you that the solar eclipse can burn your retina. In an earlier life, I was on vacation in Florida with friends on a day that included a partial solar eclipse. We were on a deck near the beach sipping adult beverages as the event took place. Some of those among us were smart & used the pinhole…box…shadow thing. Others just took a quick glance and looked away. My thought process was, (remember alcohol was involved) that if it isn’t hurting my eyes to stare at it, what harm can it do? The rest of the trip, all seemed okay.
I am a videographer and as time went on, I noticed I was having a harder time focusing my viewfinder and that my right eye was always more blurred than the left, but no big deal.
Years later, I was at my eye doctor for a routine eye exam, and after all the eye charts and other tests were done, she asked me, and I quote “When you were younger, were you ever drinking and stare at a solar eclipse?”
Her exact words, I promise. After raising my head from embarrassment, I told her yes. She explained to me that it caused a scar on the back of my retina, a permanence that can never be fixed. What happens, is that my vision in the center is blurred and when I look at an eye chart, the middle letters dance around, are blurry, and mostly unreadable.
It doesn’t get better or worse, just stays the same.
I write all that to say this. DON’T STARE AT THE ECLIPSE!!!
By the way, the way I focus my camera is to turn the focus ring to the least blurry setting or use my left eye.”
This isn’t the only warning we’ve heard about permanent eye damage from people viewing past eclipses. However, this might be the only one advising us to not spike the eclipse. We should all heed his warning.
Tips for Viewing the Eclipse:
- Check the NASA website to make sure you have approved glasses.
- Check the NASA website for directions on using the glasses.
- Consider the Risk. If you have young children, or kids who don’t follow directions well, weigh the consequences vs the benefits before you take them to view the eclipse. Maybe staying indoors isn’t such a bad thing.
- But most importantly, leave your wine glass at home.