ST. GEORGE – For the first time in 18 years people in the United States will be able to view an annular solar eclipse on Sunday, May 20. Again on June 5 eyes will turn upward as Venus will make its pathway across the sun for the last North American viewing opportunity until 2117. Both are compelling reasons to get your solar viewing glasses now.
Looking at the sun, even briefly, with the naked eye, through sunglasses, through unfiltered camera, telescope and other magnification lenses can cause irreparable damage to your eyes.
“The temptation is to think, oh I can look at it with my sunglasses because my lenses are dark,” said Dr. Paul Gooch of SouthWest Vision in St. George. “That’s the precisely wrong thing to do.”
“The center part of your vision, the macula, is the most sensitive part of your vision, (it delivers) your ability to see detail; and your focus when you look straight at something comes from the macula,” Gooch said, “it has a high concentration of photo receptors, everything is finely ordered. As a matter of fact, to stare at the sun leaves a central blank spot in your vision. So in the most severe cases of this, similar to macular degeneration, if they view (the sun) wrong they wouldn’t be able to see faces, read fine print.”
Solar viewing glasses have lenses that are actually a metallic; Gooch said it’s almost like looking through tin foil.
Solar viewing glasses are a must to avoid irreparable damage to the eye.
SouthWest Vision, at 965 E 700 S in St. George has 500 glasses on hand today and will have another 2500 on hand tomorrow. The cost is $2 per pair.
SouthWest Vision will also offer the glasses at their booth at the What Women Want Expo at the Dixie Center Friday and Saturday, this weekend.
In St. George, astronomer and ranger assisted viewing opportunities for Sunday’s eclipse are offered at the Washington County Water Conservation District building located off Red Hills Parkway at 533 E. Waterworks Drive, next to Pioneer Park. The gates will open at 5:30 p.m. and free solar eclipse viewing glasses will be provided to the first 250 visitors.
Cedar City/Brian Head Tourism Bureau is providing viewing glasses at its Solar Eclipse Party.
Greater detail on the damage that can occur to the eyes and safe viewing techniques can be found at the transitofvenus.org website.
Copyright 2012 St. George News.