AUSTIN (KXAN) — We’re just days away from the first of two solar eclipses to pass over Central Texas over the next few months.
On Oct. 14, an annular eclipse will cross the state from northwest to southeast, happening over Austin at 11:54 a.m. Viewing the eclipse safely will require some prep on your part.
“(I see) a few patients a year that have either accidentally looked at the sun or were trying to view an eclipse,” said Dr. Andrew Neighbors, a Seattle-based optometrist.
According to Neighbors, damage caused by looking at the sun during an eclipse is called eclipse blindness or solar retinopathy. This damage may heal over time but could be permanent. Neighbors says there is little that can be medically done to repair this damage.
What happens during eclipse blindness?
Neighbors says eclipse blindness appears as a black dot in your vision.
“If you’ve ever seen a car headlight or something like that, it’s really bright, and then afterwards, you can kind of see the car headlight. It would be like that. It just wouldn’t go away,” Neighbors said.
The sun causes by burning a spot onto your retina. “Have you ever used a magnifying glass with the sun and you can literally start a fire?” Neighbors said that when looking at the sun, your eye’s lens acts like the magnifying glass. “You’re focusing a light. You’re literally burning your retina.”
With no pain receptors, you won’t even feel your retina sizzling.
“If afterwards, you notice a spot or loss of central vision — anything that lasts longer than a few minutes — you’ll want to make sure you come in and visit your optometrist… so that they can check it out,” Neighbors said.
Preventing eclipse blindness
The American Optometric Association recommends everyone use eclipse glasses to view an eclipse. These glasses cost about a dollar. They’re typically made of paper and have a dark film covering the eyes.
“It’s a very, very dark piece of film,” Neighbors said. “ISO 12312-2 is the international standard (of the film).”
Dr. Neighbors said you’ll know the glasses are legitimate because they will have the letters ISO on them, and they will also be basically impossible to see through. He said you only be able to see the sun through them. Regular sunglasses are not going to work.
“Make sure that you put them on before you look up,” Neighbors recommends.
Annular eclipse over Texas
This Saturday’s eclipse is an annular eclipse. Occurring three times a year, annular eclipses occur when the moon is further from the Earth and doesn’t completely block the sun.
The Oct. 14 eclipse will have 88% of the sun’s light blocked by the moon over Austin. Because it is not fully obscured, Austin’s view of the eclipse is considered a partial eclipse. The city will not see a “ring of fire”, but instead a crescent shaped eclipse.
On April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will pass over Texas. During this eclipse, all of the sun will be blocked by the moon.
You will need to hold onto your glasses for this eclipse, too. While you are able to look directly at the eclipse when its at its peak, you will need the glasses in the moments leading up to totality.