Skip to main content

Here's what actually happens if you look at the solar eclipse without glasses

Will looking at the sun make you go blind?

We all know we shouldn't stare at the sun – not even when there's a solar eclipse – because something bad will happen.

But what, exactly? Will you go completely blind, like some people claim?

GoMN spoke with Dr. Joshua H. Hou – an ophthalmologist and assistant professor at the University of Minnesota – to learn more about how sunlight affects your vision. 

It damages your retina

Your retina is the part of your eye that senses light. You can look at a diagram here.

If you think of the eye as a camera, Hou said the retina would be the film. 

Basically, the high intensity of the sun's light can damage the retina and even kill some of its cells.

We asked how long it'd take to suffer damage, and Hou said there really hasn't been any testing because you can't just ask people to stare at the sun and fry their eyes. So just don't ever give the sun more than a glance. 

No, you probably won't go blind

Hou said there's actually no documentation of people going blind from looking at the sun. However, it can cause a lot of other issues. 

Your vision could become distorted, you could have issues seeing colors, or you could end up with a debilitating blind spot. 

These things usually go away in three to six months, Hou said. But sometimes the damage is permanent and there's not much you can do to fix it. 

Is looking at a solar eclipse more dangerous?

According to Dr. Hou, it's just as dangerous to look at a solar eclipse as it is to look at the sun. 

The reason there are so many warnings regarding solar eclipses is that people have a tendency to stare for longer periods of time. Even if it looks pretty dark, you shouldn't do that. 

Make sure you wear protective glasses. You can learn more about finding safe ones here. 

Hou said lenses with a shade grade of 14 only let in .003 percent of light. Regular sunglasses let in 1000 times more than that.

Next Up

ambulance

Fleeing suspect crashes, killing innocent driver in Brooklyn Park

The suspect fled police in Osseo and was going south on County Road 81.

1497 S Ferry St, Anoka, MN 55303, United States - August 2021

Body found tangled with debris in the Mississippi River

The individual's name has not yet been released.

Northtown Mall Carnival

Around 100 kids run from carnival fight into Northtown Mall

Police say a large fight was happening on the ferris wheel before kids fled into the mall.

Screen Shot 2021-05-27 at 9.29.03 AM

Former state senator Scott Jensen endorsed by GOP for governor

Jensen beat to multiple other hopefuls for the endorsement at Saturday's convention.

storm

NWS already monitoring Thursday for severe weather in MN

Monday-Wednesday should be fantastic weather in Minnesota.

MissingMankatoWomanSideBySide

Body of missing Mankato woman believed to have been found

A canoer found the body in a swamp near Eagle Lake Friday.

kim crockett facebook sos

MN GOP endorses attorney general, secretary of state candidates

Kim Crockett was endorsed as the party's candidate for secretary of state, while Jim Schultz won the endorsement for attorney general.

FSmb9kkWAB0UBqk

Volunteer firefighter identified as man killed during Thursday storms

The Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office confirmed that 63-year-old Ryan Erickson died when a grain bin fell on him.

Juan Ramos, standing outside of his Taco Chon Mexican Grill, in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

Firm takes on case defending Taco Chon against Taco John's lawsuit

The local Mexican restaurant is fighting a case presented by Taco John's over naming rights, among other things.

Screen Shot 2022-05-14 at 7.32.27 AM

Worker killed in skid loader accident was 23-year-old apprentice lineman

Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative called the incident "the unthinkable."

Cascade River 1

Raging North Shore rivers overtake bridges, snap trees in half

Pedestrian bridges near the Lutsen Resort have been damaged by the vast river flow.

Related

Don't get burned by bogus eclipse glasses

Some shady eyewear is masquerading as legit protection.

Photo map: Here's what the solar eclipse looked like around the country

The eclipse is believed to be the most photographed in history.

Video: How to walk off what you eat at the Minnesota State Fair

You eat a lot and you walk a lot – but is it enough to burn off what you eat?

Find out what type of solar eclipse you'll see on Aug. 21

Some people will get the total eclipse experience. But not everyone.

Find out what type of solar eclipse you'll see on Aug. 21

Some people will get the total eclipse experience. But not everyone.

Good news, golfers: A day on the course is actually really good for you

Having trouble getting all your steps in? You might want to pick up golf