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Solar Eclipses

A solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the sun and the Earth. When the moon completely blocks the face of the sun, it is called a “total solar eclipse.” When the moon partially blocks the face of the sun, it is called a “partial solar eclipse.”

Looking directly at the sun is always dangerous. Safety is the number one priority when viewing an eclipse. Be sure you’re familiar with how you can safely experience a solar eclipse. Learn more from NASA.

On April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will cross North America, passing over Mexico, the United States, and Canada. Rhode Island will not experience a total solar eclipse, but the state will see a significant partial solar eclipse. Learn more about the eclipse from NASA and Rhode Island Division of Statewide Planning.

Health Risks

Looking directly at the sun can cause permanent eye damage. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can permanently damage the retinal tissue in your eyes, called solar retinopathy. Even small crescents of the sun are intense enough to cause a retinal burn. There are no pain receptors in the retina, so your retina can be damaged before you realize it or feel any pain.  

Typically, eye damage from staring at the sun can result in blurred vision, dark or yellow spots, pain in bright light, or loss of vision in the center of the eye (the fovea). Permanent damage to the retina has been shown to occur in about 100 seconds, but the exact time before damage occurs varies.

If you are planning to experience the eclipse, be sure to protect your eyes and use ISO (International Organization of Standardization)-compliant eclipse glasses or an indirect viewing method. Learn more about eye damage after a solar eclipse from the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Supervise children. Children may not understand the potential damage viewing a partial solar eclipse can cause. Be sure to watch them closely and make sure they are viewing the eclipse safely.

UV radiation from the sun can damage the skin. Be sure to wear sunscreen if you are spending time outside, even if the temperature isn’t very warm.

Don’t drive distracted. The eclipse can be an exciting and rare phenomenon. If you’re driving during the partial eclipse, do not look at the sun while driving. Keep your eyes on the road and stay focused on driving. Park in a safe location and use eclipse viewers if you would like to view the eclipse.


What You Should Do

Resources for the Blind and low vision community from NASA.

Everyone can experience an eclipse.