Belfast Telegraph

Don't take selfies with solar eclipse, warn health experts

By Claire Cromie

'Generation selfie' have been warned not to take photographs with Friday's solar eclipse - as it could cause blindness.

The eclipse will see 93% of the sun covered in Belfast, with a little more just over 94% obscured on the north coast.

The spectacle hasn't been seen since 1999, so for many young people it will be the first time they have witnessed such a phenomenon.

But experts at Northern Ireland's Public Health Agency are warning people not to attempt to take selfies with the eclipse.

Dr Jackie McCall, a public health consultant, says taking a selfie could have the same consequence as looking directly at the sun.

She said: "Whilst a solar eclipse is an amazing and infrequent event, the public must remember that looking directly at the sun can lead to retinal burns and permanent loss of sight.

"Looking directly at the eclipse is the same. An eclipse is a relatively slow process, so people might end up accidentally looking at the sun for minutes.”

She added: "Do not try to take a selfie – it could potentially put you at risk as you may end up accidentally looking directly at the sun while aligning yourself and your phone."

The eclipse should not be viewed through a camera lens, binoculars or a telescope - nor should it be viewed through smoked glass, stacked sunglasses, polarised shades or photographic filters.

Parents are advised to observe children and ensure they are not allowed to look directly at the sun.

“Solar burns to the retina are not painful and the loss of vision is not always immediate," said Raymond Curran, Head of General Ophthalmic Services at the Health and Social Care Board.

"It can take hours or days to develop and there is unfortunately no treatment for it. Once the eye has been damaged the damage is irreversible."

This is the first time the eclipse will happen during rush hour.

From 8.30am astronomers will be getting in to position to safely watch the exciting event.

The deep partial eclipse of the sun will peak at around 9.30am. At this time 93% of the sun will be obscured in Belfast.

The Royal Astronomical Society says the safest ways to view the eclipse include using a pinhole camera to project an image of the eclipse on to a piece of card.

Other options involve using colanders to make multiple pinholes or using specifically-designed eclipse viewing glasses.

Read more:

Solar eclipse March 2015: When is it? How do I watch it?

Earth hit by major solar storm 

Northern Lights captured in Northern Ireland: Biggest solar flare in two decades causes stunning aurora borealis displays over UK 

Air pollution sparks health alert 

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