Seriously, Don’t Look at the Sun, Ever

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Image: David Murphy
Image: David Murphy

I’m amazed I have to write this, but here goes. If you’ve been on social media then you’ve probably noticed California’s wildfires have changed the sky’s colour to an apocalyptic shade of red. Perhaps it’s really red, like your favourite Star Wars moment. It might even be easier to look at.

Don’t look at it. Do not look at the sun.

Here’s the thing. A lot of people are wrongfully assuming that the sun’s brightness causes all kinds of unpleasant and uncorrectable damage to your eyes were you to look at it. (“Solar retinopathy,” for the curious, which is not something I’d throw into my Google Image Search if I wanted to have a good day.)

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They are wrong. If anything, the sun’s unrelenting brightness — a gift from nature that should prevent most people from being able to tolerate anything more than a passing glance at it — has nothing to do with the equation. It’s the ultraviolet light that causes eye damage, and here’s the fun part: said ultraviolet light doesn’t give a shit if it’s cloudy, smoky, fire-filled, or whatever. Looking directly at the sun, even if your eyes can tolerate the brightness, is a bad idea.

As Global News reported back in 2018:

Although the smoke particles in the air may be diminishing the brightness of the sun, experts say the ultraviolet light is unaffected.

“It can affect the front surface of the eye and the back,” optometrist Navroza Walji said. “On the front surface it can cause some damage on the white part of the eye and some bumps. On the back part of the eye it can cause macular degeneration and it can also lead to cataracts.”

Do you need more proof? It’s the fucking sun. That should be all the proof you need. You wouldn’t try to stare at it on an overcast day, nor would you stare at it during an eclipse — because you are smart — so there’s no reason why you should try to stare at it any other time without the proper protection.

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It doesn’t matter if your outdoors looks like Dune; don’t stare at the sun, and especially don’t stare at the sun through the viewfinder of a camera if you’re trying to get the perfect picture of your terrible conditions. Leave the sun alone.

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