Can you really harm your eyes by stargazing incorrectly?
Yes! The sun is a star…which I know you probably learned in elementary school but might have forgotten. (I bet you thought this was an article about stargazing at night.)
Stargazing is a wonderful hobby that can bring you closer to the wonders of the universe. However, it can also pose some risks to your eyes if you are not careful. Let’s look at how to protect your eyes when stargazing at the sun, so you can enjoy the sky without damaging your vision.
Why You Need Eye Protection for Stargazing
The most important thing to remember is to never look at the sun without proper eye protection. The sun’s rays can damage your retina and cause blindness. Ordinary sunglasses are not enough. You need special solar filters or eclipse glasses that meet the ISO 12312-2 standard. These filters block out most of the sun’s light and allow you to see the sun safely.
You also need to use solar filters or eclipse glasses correctly. Before looking at the sun, cover your eyes with the filter and make sure there are no scratches or damage. After looking at the sun, turn away and remove the filter. Do not remove it while looking at the sun. If you do, you may expose your eyes to harmful radiation.
Another thing to avoid is using unfiltered cameras, telescopes, binoculars or other optical devices to look at the sun. The intense solar rays can damage the filter and your eyes. If you want to use a camera, telescope or binoculars, you need a special solar filter that fits the device.
The only time you can look at the sun without a filter is during a total solar eclipse for just a couple of minutes. When the moon completely covers the sun’s bright face and it gets dark, you can remove your filter and watch the solar corona. As soon as the sun begins to reappear, use your filter again.
You also need to be careful of laser radiation exposure. Some lasers used for astronomy or entertainment can harm your eyes if they hit them directly or indirectly. Exposure to laser radiation can cause cataracts, burns or blindness. You need laser safety glasses or goggles that block the specific wavelength of the laser you are using.
How to Choose Eye Protection for Stargazing
There are many types of eye protection for stargazing available on the market. Now that we are done just talking about the sun, you might want to protect your eyes when using lasers to collminate your telescope. Here are some tips on how to choose the best one for your needs:
|Stargazing Dangers||Recommended Eye Protection||Key Features||Avoid|
|Solar Viewing||Solar Filters or Eclipse Glasses with ISO 12312-2 Standard||
|Laser Viewing||Laser Safety Glasses/Goggles matching laser wavelength and power||
This is what we recommend:
|For solar viewing, look for solar filters or eclipse glasses that meet the ISO 12312-2 standard. They should have a CE mark and a statement that they comply with the standard. Avoid homemade filters or sunglasses that are not designed for solar viewing.|
|For laser usage, look for laser safety glasses or goggles that match the wavelength and power of the laser you are using. They should have a label that indicates their optical density and protection level. Avoid cheap or untested glasses that may not offer adequate protection|
Where to Buy Eye Protection for Stargazing
You can buy eye protection for stargazing from various sources, such as online retailers, astronomy shops, science museums, or observatories. Here are some products that we recommend:
Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, we earn a tiny bit of money from your purchases when you click the link to buy a product we like and recommend. Don’t worry, it costs you nothing…absolutely nothing.
Celestron EclipSmart Solar Shades
These are affordable and durable eclipse glasses that meet the ISO 12312-2 standard.
They have scratch-resistant lenses and a comfortable fit. We own a few for our family of four.
Jilerwear Laser Safety Goggles
These are useful glasses to protect your eyes when aligning your telescope optics using a laser beam.
Note: Make sure you know your laser’s wavelength before purchasing since these might not be right for you.
If you don’t like our choices, just shop around, and you’ll easily find plenty of stargazing options to protect your eyes. Safety first!
How to Enjoy Stargazing Safely
Once you have your eye protection for stargazing, you are ready to enjoy stargazing safely. Here are some tips on how to make the most of your stargazing experience:
|Stargazing Tip||Stargazing Item|
|Choose a dark and clear location away from light pollution and obstructions.||You can use a map to find the best stargazing spots wherever you are located.|
|Check the weather forecast and plan ahead for any changes in temperature or cloud cover.||Try an app or website like this one to see the current and future sky conditions.|
|Use a telescope, binoculars, or a camera to enhance your stargazing experience.||You can use a device like a phone or camera to magnify, capture, or share your views of the sky.|
|Check the astronomical events and plan your stargazing around them after looking at the sun.||You can use a calendar to see when there are meteor showers, eclipses, planetary conjunctions, or other phenomena.|
|Use a star chart or an app to identify the stars, constellations, planets, and other objects in the sky when day turns to night.||You can use a star chart or an app to help you navigate the sky and learn more about what you see.|
|Check the moon phase and plan your stargazing around it after enjoying the sun.||You can use a calendar to see when the moon is full, new (the best time to stargaze at night), or in between.|
Stargazing is a fun and rewarding hobby that can enrich your life and expand your horizons. However, it also requires some precautions and preparations to protect your eyes and enjoy the sky safely. By following tour tips and recommendations, you can choose the best eye protection for stargazing, find the best stargazing locations, and make the most of your stargazing experience.
About the Authors
We are avid stargazers Jason and Alison Takacs also known as “Roadtrippin’ with Takacs”. With our two boys Preston and Grayson, we seek out some of the darkest skies in the country while also going on many incredible hiking and other outdoor adventures. As part-time RVers, we try to see as much of this amazing world as possible in our spare time and hope you will join us through this blog and other forms of social media as we explore the night sky and other natural wonders as hardcore astrotourists.