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The College of Optometrists issues eclipse warning

17 March 2015 Return to news listings

Solar eclipse 200x179The College of Optometrists is warning people not to look directly at the sun during the solar eclipse on 20 March. The eclipse, which happens when the moon comes between the sun and the earth, will see most of northern Europe, including the UK, plunged into darkness for several minutes on the morning of the 20 March. 

Whilst some parts of the world will see a total eclipse, the UK will experience a ‘partial eclipse’, meaning that we won’t quite experience total darkness. Those in Scotland and Northern England are expected to experience the darkest conditions .

Many people may be tempted to look directly at the sun as it disappears from view. However, the College of Optometrists is reminding people of the potential damage they could be doing to their eyes if they don’t protect them properly. Dr Susan Blakeney, the College of Optometrists’ Clinical Adviser, commented: “Witnessing a solar eclipse is a rare and amazing event which we’re sure many people will want to make the most of. We just want to make sure people do so safely, without putting their sight, many people’s most precious sense, at risk. You should never look directly at the sun and that applies when there’s a total or partial eclipse as well. This is because the radiation emitted by the sun is so powerful it may cause a solar burn of the retina.” 

By following the College of Optometrists’ advice, members of the public will be able to enjoy this rare event without causing unnecessary harm:


  • Don’t look directly at the sun, even with sunglasses on – they don’t offer enough protection
  • Don’t watch it directly through a telescope, binoculars, camera or camera-phone. Even if you are just lining up the projection, this still puts you at risk


  • Use a pinhole projection method. This involves putting a hole in a piece of cardboard, and holding the cardboard up – with your back to the sun – so that an image of the sun is projected onto another piece of paper or card. This works well using a cardboard box, and will allow you to see the progress of the eclipse without damaging your eyes
  • Use glasses with specially designed solar filters (bearing the appropriate CE mark) if you have to view the eclipse directly.

Patient information

We have produced a patient information sheet for our members to hand out in practice on how to view eclipse safely. Download the information sheet here:

  Solar eclipse member briefing

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