A solar eclipse, such as the one that will be seen across Nebraska and Iowa on Aug. 21, is a rare and striking event that many area residents do not want to miss.
Dr. Chris Olson of Olson Eye Care in Council Bluffs is among those encouraging area residents to enjoy this rare natural experience while, at the same time, urging those who plan to watch the eclipse to take the necessary steps to ensure the experience is a safe one.
“Looking directly at the sun without proper eye protection, even for a short duration during an eclipse, can cause severe, permanent damage to your eyes,” Olson said.
While the potential of “severe, permanent damage to your eyes” might scare some away, proper solar filters will allow residents to experience the eclipse safely.
Lacking adequate eye protection, the danger, Olson said, is the possibility of solar retinopathy — damage from exposure to solar radiation to the retinal tissue in the back of the eye that transmits a stimulus to the brain for vision.
Olson noted that, while it is possible for solar retinopathy to completely resolve over months to one year, permanent visual loss is very possible and can occur with even short durations of exposure if the eyes are not properly protected.
“There are actually no current guidelines for any treatment of solar retinopathy,” he said. “Some cases resolve over time and others result in a range of permanent damage and visual loss.”
NASA scientists, who have created a web page dealing with the pending eclipse at eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety, note the only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewers that have been verified to be compliant with the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard for such products.