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Last-Minute Safety Tips for Eclipse Viewing

Safety glasses protect the eye from being damaged by looking at the sun. (Getty Images)
Safety glasses protect the eye from being damaged by looking at the sun. (Getty Images)
August 21, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY — Today, the moon will cast a 70-mile-wide shadow as it slips between Earth and the sun.

While there's no heightened health risk to just being outdoors during a total eclipse, there is danger from looking directly at the sun with the naked eye. Dr. Don Bucklin said it's not only uncomfortable, it can cause damage to the retina, the light-sensitive part of the eye.

"The sun is 400,000 times brighter than the moon,” Bucklin said, “so even just a little rim of sunshine peeking out from behind that moon is enough to really, seriously damage your eyes."

In Utah, the eclipse will start shortly after 10 a.m. and reach totality just before 11:30. Several places around the state, including the J. Willard Marriott Library, are holding viewing parties and many offer free safety glasses.

If you can't make it to an event, NASA will show the eclipse in real time on its website, and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., plans to be online live from the Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory, answering questions about eclipses.

Bucklin stressed the importance of using the eclipse safety glasses. He explaind the eyes work like a magnifying glass - and you could be blinded in about a minute.

"If you're in that total eclipse, you can look at the sun when it's totally hidden by the moon,” he explained. "If you're not in that area, well then, looking at the sun will damage your eyes. We're talking about ultraviolet radiation."

Utah will have partial coverage, with about 90 percent of the sun covered during the event. This is the first total solar eclipse visible across the U.S. since 1918.

For more information on how to safely view it, visit NASA's eclipse safety page.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - UT