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Be sure to protect your eyes during the solar eclipse - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Be sure to protect your eyes during the solar eclipse

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The first total solar eclipse in almost 100 years will take place on Aug.21. The first total solar eclipse in almost 100 years will take place on Aug.21.

We are just 10 days away from the first total solar eclipse in almost 100 years and while watching the celestial event is a rare experience, it also carries a lot of dangers. 

Leonard Bates was nine years old when he saw his first eclipse and the 80-year-old made his own viewer instead of using solar glasses. "I didn't think it was necessary to buy smoked glass, so I smoked some glass myself with a candle,” Bates recalled.

That decision cost him as bates permanently lost some vision in his right eye. "There was a spot right at the center of my right eye, my focus, that was just a blur,” Bates said.

Millions of Americans are getting ready to view the next eclipse on Aug. 21, but Dr. Russell Van Gelder from the University of Washington School of Medicine warns blindness is a risk if you don't have proper eye protection.

"It's so dangerous for people to look at the sun even for brief periods of time because you can cause permanent damage to the retina,” Dr. Van Gelder said. “We call it solar retinopathy and it's really very close to burning a hole in the retina."

The only one way to safely view a partial or total eclipse is with certified solar glasses -- simple sunglasses are not enough. The American Astronomical Society has a list of reputable eclipse glasses and handheld viewers on its website.

"The other piece of advice i have is when you're watching the eclipse with your children, be sure your kids have their eye protection on. It's very exciting for them and they want to take the eye protection off,” Dr. Van Gelder said.

"Be very, very careful, the warnings that you hear are right,” Bates advised. He still has vision in his left eye, but this time around Bates will watch the eclipse on TV. 

You will also need to use solar filter on cameras, binoculars and telescopes and don't use eclipse glasses to look through them as the focused sunlight can melt the filter and damage the eyes.

Click here to view a list of reputable glasses and viewers from the American Astronomical Society.

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