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Home : News : News
NEWS | April 3, 2024

Solar eclipse: Keep your eyes on safety April 8

502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

On April 8, a total solar eclipse will cross North America, passing over Mexico, the United States (including Texas) and Canada.

A total solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the sun and Earth, completely blocking the sun’s face. The sky will darken as if it were dawn or dusk.

Much of San Antonio will be in the direct viewing path for the total solar eclipse on Monday, April 8, 2024. The 99.9% eclipse over downtown is expected to appear as a partial eclipse around 12:14 p.m. with peak eclipse viewing at 1:34 p.m., and end around 2:55 p.m. when the partial eclipse begins to disappear.

This event is rare. On average, one happens somewhere on Earth only once every 18 months. Only 21 total solar eclipses have ever crossed the lower 48 states.

The last total solar eclipse visible in Texas was in 1937. The next won’t happen again until 2343.

The path of totality will bisect the city roughly along the diagonal path of Interstate 35. The northwestern half of the city will experience totality, whereas anyone outside this path — including those who choose to view the eclipse at the Alamo, Witte or San Antonio Zoo — will not. This is because even 0.01% of the sun’s brightness will outshine the moon, giving those outside the path a partial eclipse, Speck said.

The sun emits immense energy, including harmful ultraviolet and infrared radiation. During a solar eclipse, when the moon partially or fully blocks the sun’s rays, there’s a temptation to look directly at the sun.

However, doing so, even briefly, can cause solar retinopathy — a condition where the retina’s light-sensitive cells are damaged. This is why it’s imperative the right eye protection be worn.

Eclipse glasses are NOT regular sunglasses; regular sunglasses, no matter how dark, are not safe for viewing the sun. Safe solar viewers are thousands of times darker and must comply with the ISO 12312-2 international standard.

In conjunction with the American Optometric Association, here are some has essential safety tips when preparing to view the eclipse:

  • There is only one safe way to look directly at the sun, and that is with approved special-purpose solar filters in eclipse glasses.
  • Inspect eclipse glasses before using. If you see any scratches or damage, do not use them.
  • Always read and follow all directions that come with the solar filter or eclipse glasses. Help children use handheld solar viewers and eclipse glasses correctly.
  • The only time you can look at the sun without a solar viewer is during a total eclipse. When the moon completely covers the sun and it suddenly gets dark, you can remove your solar filter to watch this unique experience. Then, as soon as the bright sun begins to reappear, immediately use your solar viewer again to watch the remaining partial phase of the eclipse.
  • Homemade solutions aren’t safe: Regular sunglasses, homemade filters, welding goggles or improvised devices like CDs do not offer sufficient protection. These materials don’t adequately block out the intense solar radiation and can lead to severe eye damage.

Protecting your eyes should be a top priority during a solar eclipse. Damage symptoms can occur within a few hours and up to a few days after direct exposure to the sun.

If you experience blurred vision, blind spots, increased light sensitivity, altered-color vision or visual distortion after viewing the eclipse, contact your local eye-care provider (optometry or ophthalmology) for a comprehensive eye exam.

State agencies are also warning residents and visitors to expect heavy traffic delays across the state April 7-9.

The Texas Department of Transportation has a webpage  at dedicated to the April eclipse in anticipation of this traffic. It warns drivers not to wear eclipse glasses while driving, to keep their headlights on while driving — even in the daylight — and to be on alert for distracted pedestrians looking to the sky.

TxDOT is encouraging residents and visitors to pull over in a safe, designated parking space before the eclipse if they want to view it. Parking or standing on road shoulders, medians or stopping in the middle of the road is not safe and will not be permitted.

By following these guidelines and using proper protective measures, you can enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime event safely and responsibly.