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Why it's not safe to use your phone in selfie mode to watch the eclipse

Posted at 11:05 AM, Aug 21, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS -- All eyes will be on the sky Monday afternoon as the solar eclipse makes its way across the United States, and unlike the last total solar eclipse that graced the U.S. in 1979, almost everyone has a device to record the celestial spectacle – a cell phone.

With eclipse glasses selling out across the country, many people are suggesting that you can use your phone in selfie mode to watch the eclipse while snapping a few shots for your social media account. 

But how safe is it to use that cell phone in selfie mode during the total solar eclipse?

The short answer: It’s not safe at all.

Columbia University Medical Center retinal expert Dr. Tongalp Tezel says taking a selfie during the solar eclipse can be just as damaging as looking directly at the sun. That’s because the screen of your phone reflects the ultraviolet rays directly towards your eye like a mirror, which can cause a solar burn.

Sir Isaac Newton suffered retinal damage after viewing the reflection of an eclipse in the surface of a pond – which Dr. Tezel said is the archaic equivalent of a cell phone screen. And Galileo’s eyes were also damaged after he viewed an eclipse through a telescope.

So what makes the eclipse so dangerous?

Normally, you can only glance at the sun with the naked eye for a few seconds before you have to look away – but when there’s an eclipse covering all but the outer rays of the sun, many people are tempted to stare at the celestial phenomenon.

Dr. Tezel said that’s exactly when it’s the most dangerous to view the eclipse because it’s when you –can’t- feel the burn that it’s doing the most retinal damage.

TIPS | Driving safety during the solar eclipse

If you want to sneak a selfie during the eclipse, make sure you are wearing your ISO certified solar eclipse glasses.

If you weren’t able to get glasses before the big event, there are dozens of other ways to watch the eclipse Monday afternoon – stations across the country will be livestreaming the event online and on social media.

Most importantly: Stay safe and enjoy this rare celestial event.