You may not be in the Great American Solar Eclipse's path of totality but it's still going to be an extraordinary spectacle in New York City, with the moon covering 71% of the sun at 2:44 p.m. on Monday afternoon. Remember to protect your eyes, and be aware that taking an eclipse selfie without ISO 12312-2-certified solar glasses is extremely unsafe.
Columbia University Medical Center retina expert, Tongalp Tezel, MD, explains why: "Many people will think it’s safe to take a selfie with the eclipse in the background because they aren’t looking directly at the sun. What they may not realize is that the screen of your phone reflects the ultraviolet rays emitted during an eclipse directly toward your eye, which can result in a solar burn."
Dr. Tezel notes that many noted scientists have injured their eyes from solar observations, like Sir Isaac Newton who ended up staying in a dark room for days to heal his eyes.
If you're photographing the eclipse, you need eye and camera protection, as Chicagoist's Tyler LaRiviere explained in a helpful guide: "If you are using your phone, you can use an extra pair of solar eclipse glasses and hold one of the lenses of the glasses up to the camera on your phone. For Professional DSLRs you can use the more expensive 18 Stop Neutral Density filters. Or to save some money, you can buy Solar Filter Film online and rig it in front of your camera’s lens. I’m planning to sandwich the solar filter film between two pieces of cardboard with holes cut into them."
If you're planning on ditching your camera and just experiencing it, as that Luddite Neil deGrasse Tyson suggested, make sure you are you watching it with solar glasses that are ISO 12312-2-certified:
Eclipse Eyeglass Safety: NASA has been alerted there are unsafe paper solar glasses being distributed. Learn more: https://t.co/O5usFgFCMg pic.twitter.com/qTMd311kuo— NASA Armstrong (@NASAArmstrong) July 18, 2017
The Boss agrees!
Columbia University Medical Center adds, "It is safe to view the sun briefly—for a minute or two—only while the sun is completely eclipsed by the moon. However, it is a mistake to stare at the sun during any other phase of the eclipse, even if there is significant cloud coverage, says Dr. Tezel. It's precisely when you can't feel the burn that the sun's ultraviolet rays can cause considerable retinal damage."
Louis Tomososki was a teenager when he looked up at the sun during a 1962 partial solar eclipse in Oregon—and he burned his right eye. The now 70-year-old Tomososki shared his story as a cautionary tale: "I have a little blind spot in the center of my right eye.... Millions of people out there are going to be looking out at [the eclipse] … How many of them are going to say, ‘Something happened to my eyes?’ That makes me sick."
And forget hacking it with sunglasses: Dr. Tezel says, "Because sunglasses make everything appear darker, your pupils become enlarged, letting in more of the harmful rays."