ECLIPSE fever will grip the nation this morning when the skies turn dark during the day for the first time this century.
We can expect to be plunged into darkness as the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, blocking out 90% of the light.
Some parts of the UK, particularly in the North, can expect to have 97% darkness but with the wonder of the eclipse comes danger too.
David Allamby, a leading laser eye surgeon and founder of Focus clinics, says he fears there will be a surge in people suffering Solar Maculopathy if people aren’t careful with their eyes.
This occurs when the fovea, which is the part of the eye that gives the crispest vision, is burnt by exposure to light from the eclipse.
Mr Allamby explained: “The fovea is a tiny part of the eye located in the centre of the macula in the retina, at the back of the eye, and this is the area where I would expect to see problems after viewing an eclipse.
“This is a very serious complaint and can cause permanent damage. If you focus too much powerful light it can lead to a blind spot in the centre of vision.
“While it might be tempting to stand and marvel at the eclipse, people do need to be aware that it can damage their sight.
“You wouldn’t stand and stare at the sun for any length of time usually, so the eclipse should be treated in the same way.”
Here, Mr Allamby, photographed at his Wimpole Street clinic, explains five ways you can enjoy the eclipse while protecting your eyesight.
Use a colander
Mr Allamby says to get the most from the eclipse, the best place to be is in a forest, armed with a colander, so you can reflect multiple images of the eclipse as it comes through the trees. He explained: “There really are some spectacular images that have been taken during eclipses where people have used a colander as it acts as a multiple pinhole camera producing many mini-eclipse images. Used on a path where the eclipse comes in through the trees, a metal colander can create so many fun images, from patterns of the sun to shapes that look like little Pac-Men. I would say this is the most fun way to see the eclipse.”
Use a pinhole camera/projector
These cameras work by casting an image through a tiny hole onto a piece of card or you can make one yourself with two pieces of paper and a pin. Don Draper used this method in Mad Men when he tried to impress a date by showing her the solar eclipse of 1963. Mr Allamby says: “This is a sensible way to view the eclipse. Ideally the cards or sheets of paper should be a metre apart, and you can also put foil in the centre of the camera to reflect exactly how the eclipse looks without the dazzle.”
Use a telescope or binoculars
You shouldn’t use these to stare directly at the eclipse but you can use the lens on your telescope or binoculars to project the eclipse. Mr Allamby said: “This will give a more defined image of the eclipse than the pinhole camera or projector but works on the same principle. Again, use card or paper and make sure you supervise children if they are around the telescope as they may be tempted to use the eyepiece.”
Use a mirror to reflect onto a wall
This means the light is absorbed by the wall and prevents any damage to the eyes. Mr Allamby explains: “This will give you a very clear, bright view of the eclipse, and is great if you have a large blank wall as it acts like a projector, but ensure you look at the image on the wall and not the mirror or you could potentially damage your eyes.”
Use eclipse glasses
Don’t make the mistake of thinking regular sunglasses are all you need when looking at the eclipse. Mr Allamby explains: “You need very strong, dark glass instead. NASA recommend using welder’s goggles with a rating of 14 or more that reduces the density of the light but personally I would say people should only use glasses designed for looking at the eclipse. These are made with a special film called Mylar that blocks harmful rays from the sun.”