Eye Doctors in Virginia Beach, Norfolk & Chesapeake

How to safely watch a solar eclipse

Whether you want to get your children ready for science class, or you’re just a space buff, check out the next Solar Eclipse on Monday, August 21.

According to this website www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/in/usa/chesapeake, folks in our area should be treated to a great show starting around 2:47 p.m., when a partial solar eclipse will occur.

A partial solar eclipse happens when the Moon comes between the Sun and Earth, and partially covers the Sun’s disk. This looks like the Moon has taken a bite out of the Sun.


If you plan on watching this rare event, please remember:

  • It is NEVER safe to look at the sun with the naked eye. Even during a partial eclipse, viewing the Sun without eye protection risks permanent eye damage or blindness.
  • No matter which recommended technique you choose, do not stare at the sun. And, remember, don’t use regular sunglasses — they don’t offer your eyes sufficient protection.

During a partial solar eclipse, people often use pinhole cameras to watch the progress of the moon across the sun’s surface (pinhole cameras are easy to make at home). This is an “indirect” way of observing the sun, because the viewer sees only a projection of the sun and the moon.

To view the sun directly (and safely), use “eclipse glasses” (also called “solar viewing glasses” or “personal solar filters”), according to the safety recommendations from NASA. The lenses of solar-viewing glasses are made from special-purpose solar filters that are hundreds of thousands of times darker than regular sunglasses, according to Rick Fienberg, press officer for the American Astronomical Society (AAS). These glasses are so dark that the face of the sun should be the only thing visible through them, Fienberg said. Solar-viewing glasses can be used to view a solar eclipse, or to look for sunspots on the sun’s surface.

But beware! NASA and the AAS recommend that solar-viewing or eclipse glasses meet the current international standard: ISO 12312-2. Some older solar-viewing glasses may meet previous standards for eye protection, but not the new international standard, Fienberg said. “Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun.”

Fienberg said some manufacturers are making solar-viewing glasses with plastic frames, rather than the traditional paper frames. While these may look like regular sunglasses, do not be mistaken. Sunglasses are never a substitute for solar-viewing glasses.

Telescopes, cameras, binoculars and other optical devices need their own solar filters. Solar-viewing glasses are not a substitute for a proper solar filter on magnification devices. Never view the disk of the sun through a telescope, binoculars or camera without a proper solar filter. Solar-viewing glasses are not powerful enough to protect your eyes from magnified sunlight. Even if you are wearing solar-viewing glasses, viewing the disk of the sun through a magnification device will result in serious eye damage if the device is not equipped with a proper solar filter, according to the viewing safety sheet.

The safest way to watch a solar eclipse is using the pinhole camera indirect technique. If you chose to view it directly, please use extreme caution and remember to do the following:

  • Always inspect your solar filter before use; if scratched or damaged, discard it. Read and follow any instructions printed on or packaged with the filter. Always supervise children using solar filters.
  • Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the bright sun. After glancing at the sun, turn away and remove your filter — do not remove it while looking at the sun.
  • Do not look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars or other optical device.


If you have any questions about safely watching a solar eclipse with your family, please contact us at (757) 966-2206.

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Since 2010, our eye doctors have provided families in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Chesapeake with the best eye care possible. Our optometrist and staff are rooted in the philosophy of good old fashioned honesty and customer service – and our patients appreciate that. Our eye doctors and staff provide help with contact lenses, eye exams, eye glasses, glaucoma, eye diseases, diabetic eye disease, macular holes, and more.