Don’t Look Now! 2017 Solar Eclipse Eye Safety

Events // Featured News // Patient Care // Retina // University of Wisconsin - Madison // UW Health // Aug 04 2017

As the solar eclipse quickly approaches on Monday, August 21, 2017, our ophthalmologists want to ensure that everyone views this exciting event safely. Whether you are viewing it in Madison, Wisconsin or along the path of totality, looking directly at the sun can result in permanent eye injury and loss of vision. This damage can happen within seconds and occurs because the sun essentially burns your retina (the nerve-rich tissue at the back of the eye that is responsible for central vision), resulting in irreversible damage.

“Imagine reading the word, ‘C-A-T,’ but the ‘A’ is always missing – this is a very basic example of what it is like to lose your central vision.”


We, here at the UW Health and UW Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, want to ensure this does not happen to you, or your loved ones. Keep reading to learn the do’s and don’ts for experiencing any solar eclipse:


  1. Watch the NASA live-stream of the hours-long event, or catch the excitement for 2 minutes and 40 seconds as the sun and moon meet over American skies
  2. Use a pinhole projector to experience the eclipse on another surface
  3. Wear NASA-recommended eyewear that is ISO 12312-2 certified
    1. Confirm there are no scratches/holes/tears/damage of any kind to the solar filters and that they are less than 3yrs old – do not use if there is any damage
    2. Children must be supervised the entire time to ensure the glasses do not come off for any reason
    3. Place glasses on before looking at the sun and remove them after you have turned away
    4. Ask your University Station Eye Clinic providers for a certified pair of eclipse glasses on August 21 before 1pm – the 80% eclipse will be visible at 1:15pm that day in Madison, WI
    5. Explore more eclipse resources and safety information from these trusted sources: American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Astronomical Society, NASA



  1. Look directly at the sun during an eclipse
  2. Wear regular sunglasses or glasses – these do not protect your eyes for the intense rays
  3. Look through any other lens, including cameras, binoculars, telescopes – your eyes are still susceptible to injury this way
  4. DIY filters – they must be certified to ensure safety
  5. Assume your eclipse glasses are safe – DO check for scratches/holes/damage of any kind right before putting them on, confirm the ISO 12312-2 certification and manufacturer’s name is on the glasses


“This is a rare and exciting scientific event – we just ask that you enjoy it safely. Your optimal vision is our optimal outcome, always!”

– Kimberly Stepien, MD (RETINA SPECIALIST) at UW Health