By Julian Roberts
The “Great American Eclipse” of 2017 is near. Millions of Americans are flocking to cities along the path of the eclipse to witness this rare astronomical event, which is the first total solar eclipse to cross the continental United States from coast to coast in nearly 100 years.
The upcoming eclipse will begin on Oregon’s Pacific Coast and move eastward across the center of the Unites States in a 70-mile-wide “band of totality,” crossing fourteen states in all. People watching the phenomenon in the path of totality will witness a total solar eclipse, where virtually the entire sun will be blocked by the moon for a minute or two.
Across Texas, watch parties and neighborhood viewings are being organized to witness this once-in-a-lifetime event. Residents of Central Texas will see a partial eclipse, when the moon will cover approximately 65 to 67 percent of the sun.
With all of the excitement surrounding the upcoming eclipse, it is important for observers to be aware of viewing risks and follow key eye safety guidelines while enjoying the rare event.
First and foremost, viewers should never look at the sun with a naked eye. Staring at the sun during the eclipse for even a short time without protective eyewear can cause serious damage to your eyes, potentially burning your retina and even causing vision loss.
Spectators should use protective gear such as certified eclipse glasses, a pinhole projector or pinhole camera, solar filters or viewing cards, or eclipse devices approved by the American Astronomical Society.
Since there will only be a partial eclipse in Texas, it is important to note there is no time during the eclipse in which viewers can safely watch the eclipse without these items.
Most eclipse glasses and hand-held solar viewers offer adequate protection from the sun’s potentially damaging UV rays. Viewers should look for glasses or viewers labeled as “ISO 12312-2 standard.”
Importantly, in the wake of recent reports of counterfeit solar eclipse glasses flooding the market, spectators should also take extra precaution to ensure the authenticity of their protective eyewear. The American Astronomical Society has published a listof verified manufacturers and authorized dealers of solar filters and viewers.
To ensure your eyes are healthy for the next eclipse, and for many years to come, it is also important to be proactive about your vision care. The most cost-effective and efficient way to maintain healthy vision is through managed vision care.
As the Executive Director of the National Association of Vision Care Plans, I encourage you to put your vision benefit to use through regular visits to your preferred eye care professional, which is the clearest pathway to healthy vision and better overall health. If you do not already have a vision care plan through your employer, explore your options for participating in an individual vision care plan.
Preparing for the eclipse is very important. But equally important is seeing that you and your family have healthy vision throughout the year and beyond.
Julian Roberts is the Executive Director of the National Association of Vison Care Plans (NAVCP), the unified voice for the managed vision care industry promoting the value managed vision care brings to U.S. healthcare. Find out more at www.navcp.org.