ATLANTA - If you're wondering whether watching the solar eclipse without those hard-to-find solar eclipse glasses can really make you blind, Emory Eye Center retina surgeon Dr. G Baker Hubbard says the answer is, most definitely, yes.
Hubbard says he can't drive home this message enough. He's seen the damage the sun can do to the eyes, and Hubbard is particularly concerned about children, who may not realize the danger of looking at the sun.
Monday's solar eclipse will be tricky, and dangerous, Hubbard says, because most of us know not to look directly at the sun because it hurts. During the eclipse, it may not hurt.
"When you partially obscure the sun with the moon, it's not so bright, and it's not so painful to actually look at it," Dr. Hubbard explains. "But, even though it's not painful, those harmful rays are still getting in your eyes and focused right onto the center of your retina. And that's where it does the damage."
The sun is so powerful, Hubbard says, it causes permanent burns in the back of the eyes, a blinding condition known as solar retinopathy.
"And it definitely causes an irreversible blind spot right in the middle of your vision, from where those rays get focused right into the center of your retina and cause damage," Hubbard says. "Once you burn that area, it's gone for good."
Hubbard says the only way to watch the eclipse is to wear a pair of ISO-endorsed solar eclipse glasses or handheld viewer that will block almost all of the sun's damaging rays. The eclipse glasses are thousands of times darker than sunglasses, which will not protect your eyes during a solar eclipse. Wearing them, you should be able to see nothing but the sun.
"If you put those glasses on, and you're just looking around, they look totally black," he says. "You can't see anything through those glasses unless you look at the sun."
You can make sure your solar filter glasses are legitimate by going to https://eclipse.aas.org/resources/solar-filters.
The only people in Georgia who will be able to safely watch Monday's solar eclipse without eye protection are in extreme northeast Georgia, which is in the path of totality. But even then, they can only take off the glasses for the two and half minutes or so when the moon fully covers the sun. Most of metro Atlanta will see about 97% coverage of the sun.
"So in Atlanta, we're a little bit south of the path of totality," Dr. Hubbard says. "So, if you're in Atlanta, there is really no way to safely look at it without your glasses."
And if you can't find solar filter glasses, expert recommend creating a pinhole camera and watching the eclipse of the century that way.
Whatever you do, don't look up without protecting eyes, Dr. Hubbard cautions.