Doctors urge safety for solar eclipse

Here in Houston, watchers will only see a 67 percent eclipse of the sun as it passes overhead, but that's enough to bring permanent damage to anyone who isn't careful.

HOUSTON - The countdown is on until the 2017 solar eclipse. This is the first time in nearly 40 years people in the United States will get to see such a rare sight.

The path of totality where the moon completely covers the sun will stretch across the U.S. from Oregon to South Carolina. Here in Houston, watchers will see a 67 percent eclipse of the sun.

Related: Full coverage of the Aug. 21 solar eclipse

“Everybody in the united states sees something neat," said Dr. Carolyn Sumners, Houston Museum of Natural Science's VP of Astronomy & Physics.

It will be a spectacular sight to see, and one we here in North America don’t gaze upon often.

“This is the first time we have an eclipse close enough that a lot of people can drive to it," Sumners said.

But staring at the breathtaking beauty for a little too long could actually leave you burned.

“Light going in through the cornea, through the lens and into the retina itself," said Dr. Andrew Kopel with Houston Eye Associates.

And before you decide to look directly at the sun, you might want to listen to Dr. Kopel. He’s an ophthalmologist.

“If people are looking directly at the sun, they get damage to their photo receptors," Dr. Kopel said.

Dr. Kopel calls it solar retinopathy. He says the damage won’t be enough to cause full blindness, but it will hurt.

“Localized burns in your retina, which would lead to very focal blind spots in your vision," Dr. Kopel said.

So how do you stare at the sun as it peeps behind the moon without remembering it forever for all the wrong reasons?

Well, you can get a pair of solar eclipse glasses. They have a filter that blocks out the harmful radiation.

Or you can construct a crafty creation from a box of crackers, called a pinhole projector.

“Aim it at the sun, and you’ll see little eclipses everywhere your food makes a hole," Sumners said.

You may look like you’re about to see the latest 3-D blockbuster, but the picture playing on the big screen will be nothing like the one soaring across the sky.

If you miss this eclipse, you will have another opportunity in 2024, when another solar eclipse will pass right through Dallas.

Dr. Kopel says wearing traditional sunglasses may even be more harmful while watching because you don’t realize how long you’re actually looking at that sun.

You can find the solar eclipse glasses online, or at several local stores, including Best Buy, Walmart or Fry's. Most of them cost a few dollars apiece. The Houston Museum of Natural Science is also selling them for $3.

When purchasing, make sure they have the ISO emblem on them to make sure they are certified. For more on reputable sellers approved by NASA, tap/click here.

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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