Eclipse Tips: Mayor de Blasio Shares Safety Tips Ahead of the Solar Eclipse

August 18, 2017

New Yorkers should not look directly at the sun and should wear glasses or use hand-held solar viewers; motorists must be cautious about increased darkness.

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio today recommended safety tips to New Yorkers viewing the solar eclipse on Monday, August 21. In New York City, a partial solar eclipse will occur between 1pm and 4pm – and peak at 2:44 pm, when more than 70 percent of the sun will be covered by the moon. City officials are urging New Yorkers to take proper safety precautions when enjoying this event, especially to prevent permanent damage to the eyes.

"Solar eclipses are extraordinary and beautiful cosmic events, and we want to make sure New Yorkers enjoy next Monday's eclipse safely," said Mayor de Blasio. "New York City is hundreds of miles from the total solar eclipse that will be experienced in the Carolinas, but a partial eclipse can also do serious and permanent damage to the eyes. Even if it's a cloudy day, we are asking that anybody who is outside Monday afternoon make special preparations and drive safely."

To prepare for the eclipse, City officials recommend purchasing eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewers that comply with the international safety standard ISO 12312-2. High-quality or dark sunglasses and homemade filters are not safe. Visit the American Astronomical Society website for a list of manufacturers and authorized dealers of glasses and solar viewers.

Before looking at the sun, check the solar viewer or eclipse glasses carefully. If they are scratched, ripped, or have holes, do not use them. Read and follow any instructions from the filter's packaging. Do not look at the sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewer – the concentrated solar rays will damage the camera's filter and serious injury to the eye.

If driving, carefully guard against direct sunlight exposure to the eyes. Also, during the 2 p.m. hour, drivers should turn on headlights.

"New Yorkers have a rare opportunity to enjoy a partial solar eclipse, one of the most awe-inspiring events in nature," said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. "Looking directly at a partial solar eclipse can permanently damage the eyes. It is best to enjoy this phenomenon safely by using proper eye protection. We ask New Yorkers to take safety precautions like using proper eclipse glasses or solar viewers."

"When the moon blocks the sun, a solar eclipse creates one of Mother Nature's rarest and most beautiful events," said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. "New Yorkers should of course enjoy this unique event, but should do so safely – with proper eye protection. New Yorkers who have to drive on Monday should know it will be a very unusual day, with dusk-like darkness in the middle of the afternoon. We are urging extra caution – especially in the 2pm hour, when we strongly recommend you drive with headlights."

"New Yorkers should be able to enjoy this beautiful and rare act of nature without fear of damaging their eyes," said Consumer Affairs Commissioner Lorelei Salas. "We want to remind consumers to only purchase solar viewers or eclipse glasses from reputable vendors and to be wary of scammers selling fake lenses. Vendors should be able to provide certification that their product complies with the International Organization for Standardization's safety requirements for eye protection."

"Although a solar eclipse is a rare and magnificent phenomenon, viewing it without appropriate eye protection can result in a potentially blinding condition called solar retinopathy," said Dr. Mrinali Gupta, a retina specialist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and an assistant professor of ophthalmology at Weill Cornell Medicine. "Light rays can damage the retina—the light-sensing tissue that lines the back of the eye and acts like the 'film of the camera' of the eye. While solar retinopathy can occur any time someone looks directly at the sun for too long, the risk is higher during an eclipse because the partially blocked sun is easier to look at for prolonged periods of time, and because so many people are looking directly at the sun."

On August 21, the Great American Solar Eclipse will occur as a total eclipse in a band about 70 miles wide through the American states of Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Total solar eclipses are exceedingly rare events, with New York City last experiencing one on January 24, 1925. The next major partial solar eclipse visible in New York City will be on April 8, 2024 (90 percent obscuration), while the next total solar eclipse visible in New York City will be on May 1, 2079.

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