Solar eclipse

Date: 20 April 2023

Warning about the risk of permanent eye damage

Viewing a full or partial solar eclipse directly, including with the use of visual protection, can cause eye damage or permanent blindness.

  • Do not look at the sun.
  • Viewing the eclipse directly can cause permanent loss of vision.
  • Damage occurs rapidly without any pain.
  • Loss of vision may not occur until after the eclipse.
  • There is no treatment for damage caused by looking directly at the sun.
  • Children are especially at risk.
  • The Department of Health and the Commonwealth’s Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) do not recommend direct viewing of the eclipse.

Indirect viewing of a solar eclipse

Indirect viewing is the safest way to view a solar eclipse.

Use a pinhole viewer to project an image of the sun onto a piece of card or stiff paper, which acts as a screen.

Direct viewing of a solar eclipse

The main hazards to the eye from very intense sunlight are from heat (infrared radiation), ultraviolet radiation (UVR) and from excessive visible light, especially blue light.

Even a momentary glance at the sun can focus a very intense amount of heat onto the back of the eye (retina).

The retina has no sensitivity to pain. There is no warning that an injury to the eye has occurred.

The effects of retinal damage may not appear for hours.

UVR can cause 'sunburn' to the outer surface of the eye (cornea).

The least understood risk is from blue light which may also cause damage to the eye.

Children are especially at risk.

Direct viewing of an eclipse using equipment or eyewear with specific solar filters is not recommended. This includes ‘eclipse glasses’, because:

  • their quality cannot be guaranteed
  • they may not block sufficient light
  • there may be scratches, cracks or pin hole defects
  • they frequently do not fit the face well and light can reach the eyes from the gaps.

If you choose to use solar eclipse glasses they should be tested to meet the applicable Australian or equivalent standard. 

Do not use solar eclipse glasses with other optical devices such as a camera lens, telescopes, or binoculars. The concentrated solar rays will cause serious eye injury.

Dark sunglasses, exposed x-ray film and welding shields with a lens category of less than 14 do not provide suitable eye protection.

Be careful if viewing an eclipse through your mobile device.

Ensure that you are not looking directly at the sun by mistake. Your phone may not cover the sun entirely. There is also a risk of damaging your camera or screen.

Children should be fully supervised during the eclipse to ensure they do not look directly at the sun.

Safe use of eclipse glasses

The Department of Health does not recommend viewing an eclipse directly, including using eclipse glasses with specific solar filters. The safest way to view an eclipse is by using indirect methods, such as a pinhole camera.

If you choose to view an eclipse using an eclipse filter or eclipse glasses despite the risk, it is important that you use them as safely as possible.

Eclipse glasses or solar filters must be certified to comply with AS/NZS 12312.2:2020 Eye and face protection – Sunglasses and related eyewear, Part 2: Filters for the direct observation of the sun.

Eclipse glasses are not regular sunglasses; they are thousands of times darker.

Viewing an eclipse using eclipse glasses

  • Inspect your eclipse glasses before use. If scratched, punctured, torn, coming loose from the frame or otherwise damaged, discard them. Follow any instructions printed on or packaged with the glasses.
  • Supervise children using eclipse glasses. Ensure they use them correctly and do not look at the sun around the filter.
  • If you normally wear prescription glasses, keep them on. Put your eclipse glasses over them.
  • Before looking up at the sun, stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses. After the eclipse, turn away to remove your glasses. Do not remove your eclipse glasses while looking at the sun.
  • While wearing your eclipse glasses, do not look at the sun through a camera, telescope, binoculars or any other optical device - the concentrated solar rays could damage the filter and enter your eye(s), causing serious injury

Cleaning eclipse glasses

Manufacturers of hard plastic eclipse glasses often supply a microfibre pouch to wipe the lenses clean. You can also use any soft, nonabrasive tissue or cloth. 

Not all wet wipes are suitable for cleaning eclipse glasses. 

Do not use water, glass cleaner, or any other solvents or liquids to clean cardboard eclipse glasses.

Keep cardboard dry. If it gets wet, it will swell and likely detach from the lenses. 

Last reviewed: 10-02-2023

Sections of this information has previously been produced by ARPANSA and is reproduced with permission from ARPANSA.

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.