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This sunday, May 20, 2012, there will be an annular eclipse that can be best viewed in northern California near Eureka, Redding, and Lake Tahoe. An annular eclipse is different from a total eclipse in that there will be a “ring of fire” visible as the moon passes directly in front of the sun. You can check out NASA’s Google Map page to see when the eclipse will pass over your area.
While this event promises to be spectacular, please do not look directly at the sun. You could cause permanent damage to your retina, called solar retinopathy. Basically, you can burn the center of your fovea and suffer from severe vision loss. Sunglasses will not protect you, so don’t even think of trying.
How can you see the eclipse?
There are a few ways to view an eclipse. One is to make a pinhole projector: allowing you to view an image of the sun on a piece of paper. Instructions for construction can be found here.
You can also get a special solar filter for your telescope or camera. Make sure that it is the right filter for the exact brand and model of camera that you have.
You can use binoculars around and project the sun’s image onto the ground or a piece of paper. Do not ever look through the binoculars or telescope doing the projecting.
Find some number 14 welder’s glasses.
The week after the eclipse, I saw two patients who had damaged their retinas by looking directly at the sun during the eclipse. So solar retinopathy is a real thing — please take care to protect your vision during the next solar event.
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