The solar eclipse is almost here, and if you’re lucky enough to be in its prime viewing path (hint: Oregon, Idaho, and Wyoming will have the clearest skies) it might be difficult to resist going against everything you’ve ever been taught and staring directly at the sun. But if you still want to have the gift of vision after the eclipse is over, you have to be smart about it.
“It’s too tempting, because it’s such a beautiful, awesome sight nature is offering us,” Dr. Dean Evan Hart said during a press conference in New York City on Sunday, where residents will be able to witness 71 percent of the sun getting obscured.
“It will be so mesmerizing, you won’t realize the damage because it won’t feel bright,” he added. “You stare at it and I’ll tell you for sure next week we’ll have many people coming in with permanently scarred and damaged retina.”
Just like how many people suffer from severe sunburn after swimming because they didn’t need to feel the need to apply sunscreen, the eclipse could trick people into thinking that it’s safe to look at the sun when doing so can lead to retina burns and macular degeneration. In the most severe cases, a person can be rendered legally blind from staring at the sun for too long.
If you do manage to get your hands on eclipse glasses, make sure to check for the letters ISO and the number 12312-2 – if they’re not present, you may have purchased a counterfeit pair that might not protect you from the sun. Normal sunglasses do not protect you at all, and people who have eclipse glasses should not use binoculars or telescopes.
Instead, you can opt to create a pinhole camera from a cardboard box. All you need is two pieces of white card stock, some aluminum foil, tape, and a pin or paper clip and you’re set. NASA prepared a useful how-to guide for this low-cost method of enjoying the eclipse.
You can also watch below to see the construction of a pinhole camera for yourself.