What Happens If You Look At The Sun With Binoculars?
Looking at the sun hurts
Have you ever accidentally looked directly at the sun on a bright sunny day? It hurts, doesn’t it? Our eyes are so sensitive that they begin to burn and we immediately have to look away and start blinking as our lives depend upon it.
Of course, wearing sunglasses makes it a tiny bit easier to look at the sun, but even then, people can only manage to look at the sun for a second or two before they feel like their eyes are going to start cooking.
Many people think that by viewing the sun through another item, rather than our bare eyeballs, we will be able to see the sun much more easily and without that searing burning pain. As such, we often get asked if the sun can be viewed through binoculars.
Whilst we understand the thought process behind this (after all, it makes sense that a piece of equipment made from glass, metal, or plastic would protect our eyes), we have to inform you that nothing can protect your eyes from the sun if you’re looking at it directly. You should not look at the sun with binoculars.
In this article, we are going to be taking you through exactly what can happen if you look at the sun with binoculars. Warning, it ain’t pretty!
What can happen to your eyes if you look at the sun through binoculars?
If you look at the sun with binoculars, you can expect to experience intense discomfort, pain, and even eye damage. The sun emits UV light (ultraviolet light) and when this enters into your eye it penetrates the lens of the eyeball and focuses on the retina behind your eye.
The retina is the part of your eye that is extremely light-sensitive, and so light as bright as the sun will be very dangerous for it. UV rays cause something known as free radicals to form. When these are absorbed in your retina they begin to oxidize on the retina tissues and surrounding areas.
This can, in turn, cause damage to the rod and cone photoreceptors of the eye, destroying them and causing irreparable damage. This is known as solar retinopathy and can occur from just a couple of seconds of sun exposure.
If you look at the sun for longer than a few seconds, such as 10 seconds or more, you can immediately go blind or cause lifelong damage such as macular holes, color blindness, distortion, and worse.
There was an experiment done to see what might happen to our eyeballs when looking at the sun through devices such as telescopes and binoculars. One astronomer used a pig’s eye (not attached to the animal of course) and held it behind a telescope that was pointed at the sun.
He did this for 20 seconds in total, after which he noticed a smell like burning meat. He found that there was a charred hole burned through the eyeball. Of course, when attached to a body, the tear ducts would produce a protective film which may subdue the effects.
However, this experiment goes a long way in telling us just how harmful the rays of the sun can be when viewed through a telescope or binoculars. Binoculars and telescopes work in a similar way to a magnifying glass when it comes to the sun.
You’ve probably heard the experiments involving magnifying glasses and the rays of the sun? When items can burst into flames when under a magnifying glass in the sun…
Well, your eyeballs, when behind a lens looking at the sun, can have similar effects. Sure, they may not burst into flames but the result is certainly going to involve eyeball damage.
If you still want to use these devices to view the sun, such as during a solar eclipse, you should ensure you use a specially designed solar device or install some optician-approved sunlight filters on your lenses to protect your eyes from unfiltered UV rays.
Are there any exceptions that allow you to look at the sun with binoculars?
Yes! You can look safely at the sun, provided you have all the correct equipment. Of course, even then it is not without its risks. The sun is not a force to be reckoned with. However, if you have all the right kits needed, you can partake in safe solar viewing. Indeed, this is what people do when they want to safely view a solar eclipse!
Options for safe solar viewing include using telescopes, binoculars, and cameras that come fitted with approved solar filters. These filters stop the harmful unfiltered sunlight from causing extreme damage to your eyes.
These binocular filters need to be approved by opticians. Using eclipse glasses or welders goggles. These need to be at least grade 14 or higher. Solar telescopes and binoculars can also be used. You can also use a pinhole projector. Do not view the sun or any solar eclipse without one of these safe solar viewing items.
What are the signs that you have damaged your eyes from looking at the sun through binoculars?
If you have already looked at the sun through binoculars or a telescope, then our advice will be pointless right now. Instead, you should be focusing on getting help and medical advice.
Hopefully, if you did it for just 1 or 2 seconds, the damage sustained should be relatively mild. However, you should still get your eyes checked out by a doctor or optician.
Some signs that you should look out for that will tell you your eyes are damaged from the sun are as follows:
- A headache
- Photosensitivity (discomfort when looking at light)
- Sore eyes
The symptoms listed above may all be signs of mild solar or photic retinopathy. More serious solar retinopathy may occur with the following symptoms:
- Blind spots on your eyes in the center of your vision
- Blurred vision or distorted vision
- Issues seeing color
- Difficulty making out shapes
This is not a definitive list of symptoms, and any discomfort, mild or otherwise, should be assessed by a doctor after looking at the sun with bare eyes or unfiltered binocular lenses.