Why The Solar Eclipse Worries This Boise Optometrist

Aug 3, 2017

Philip Rainey, a Boise optometrist, counsels his patients on how to safely view the solar eclipse, August 2017.
Credit Tom Michael / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho is prime viewing for the August 21 total solar eclipse. While the majority of people are excited to experience this once-in-a-lifetime event, the eclipse has a very narrow segment of the population worried.


Philip Rainey, an optometrist in Boise, says the eclipse is changing the way he does his job. Lately, at the end of eye exams, Rainey shows his patients slides on why they should never look at anything as bright as the sun.

“We kind of think, ‘Well, it’s not that painful, it’s not that bad. Well, I’ll be OK.’ And then, it’s later on, hours later, we realize, ‘I probably shouldn’t have done that.’”


Any amount of eclipse viewing without correct protective lenses is not a good idea. Rainey says to use solar filters, or eclipse glasses. Most have ISO number 12312-2 stamped on the lens.


“If you’ve never looked through a filtering set of solar eclipse glasses, it’s kind of surprising, because they’re extremely, extremely dark,” says Rainey. “You can’t see anything.”


If you’re thinking about skipping out on the specialized glasses and trying something you might already have at home, Rainey warns against it.


“You don’t want to use anything like a regular welding mask, because it’s not dark enough, unless it’s number 14 for welding goggles,” he says.


Even sunglasses won’t do the trick. And don’t try stacking them, either.


“No regular sunglasses,” Rainey says. “ And then definitely don’t look through a telescope or binoculars directly at it, as well.”


If you did that, it will basically cook the inside of your eye, says Rainey.


“It makes those layers separate; those scars on the inside of your eye can be permanent, and your vision can be affected for the rest of your life by it.”


Rainey says you can take your filters off only for the moments of total eclipse, which means you'd have to be viewing it within the path of totality. But once the sun re-appears, put the solar filters back on.



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