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Important warning about solar observations

Never look directly at the sun.
Photo: Espace pour la vie (Planétarium de Montréal)

Caution! Danger!

Never look directly at the Sun. Always use a proper solar filter. Only the following filters are recommended:

  • #14 welder's glass, available at most hardware stores;
  • filters specifically designed for solar observation — such as aluminized mylar filters or black polymer filters — available at astronomy stores.

The Sun's intense radiation (visible light, ultraviolet and infrared) always presents a serious danger to the eye, especially to the central part of the retina known as the macula. The highly sensitive cells in this area can easily be burned since they absorb a maximum quantity of solar radiation which is then converted to heat. Retinal burns do not produce pain so there is no warning, and once damaged, these cells never regenerate. This page shows examples of retinal damage caused by observing the Sun without adequate eye protection.

Adequate solar filters should reduce the Sun’s infrared and ultraviolet radiation to within accepted safety thresholds: They should allow no more than 0.001% of the Sun’s visible light to pass (equivalent to an optical density of 5). While some filters or “systems” claim to cut visible light to acceptable levels, they allow nearly all the dangerous infrared and ultraviolet radiation to pass through!

Do not use the following:

  • sunglasses (even expensive ones);
  • color negative film exposed to light and developed;
  • slide film unexposed to light and developed;
  • glass plates covered with soot;
  • crossed polarizing filters;
  • color acetates;
  • all other filters not specifically designed for solar observing.

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