Man Attempts to View Sun Through TelescopeSolar retinopathy caused by viewing the sun through a telescope
We were as intrigued as the rest of the nation when we learned of the recent celestial events that have made the news. Both the full solar eclipse and Venus crossing in front of the sun were widely celebrated in the astronomical community.
Unfortunately, one man did not heed the usual warnings related to such events. Attempting to view the Venus transit through his telescope, he magnified the sun’s rays and caused a phenomenon known as solar retinopathy. You can see the effects in the photo at the right (click on the photo for a larger version).
The large circle with arteries and veins branching out of it is the tip of the optic nerve, a normal structure. What is abnormal is the fried egg yolk appearance left of the optic nerve. This area is called the macula, and it contains the highest concentration of the most sensitive nerves in the eye. It should have a uniform, dark red appearance.
The man sought help from his optometrist at LaFollette Eye Clinic afterwards, complaining that his vision was blurred, he was light-sensitive, his eyes were watering, and he had a yellow tint to his vision. After some investigation, we discovered that he had stared at the sun through his unfiltered telescope for about ten seconds. Further testing showed solar retinopathy, which includes what you see in the photo, and more sophisticated testing showed both nerve swelling and cell death in the central macula.
This man was incredibly fortunate, in that his sight was still reasonably intact. However, he may have caused damage that will further deteriorate his central vision. Only time will tell.
Although you’ve heard it since you were a child, it bears repeating: never look at the sun for any length of time, whether directly, through binoculars or with an unfiltered telescope. If you must see the sun, there are plenty of safe ways to do so, including pinhole and solar filters.
And while you’re at it, consider purchasing a good pair of sunwear that blocks 100% of the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. Ultraviolet light is known to have serious effects on the eyes over time, including cataracts and macular degeneration.