Here's What Actually Happens If You Look Directly At The Sun

TL;DR basically just don't do it.

The total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017, is kind of a big deal.

Depending on where you are in the US, you'll see either a partial or total eclipse.

But there's a catch. Looking directly at the sun — even when it's partially blocked by the moon — is dangerous.

Other than the brief moment when the moon completely blocks the sun (if you're in the path of totality), the eclipse must be viewed with special solar filters that are certified to meet international safety standards, says Fienberg. (More on those and eclipse-viewing safety shortly.)

So, what exactly happens when you look at the sun? Turns out that although you probably won't go totally blind, you can get ​super-​serious, permanent eye damage in less than 30 seconds. Yikes.

Let's start with a quick primer on how the eye works.

It's a part of the retina that is at risk of being damaged by exposure to sunlight.

And unfortunately the macula is uniquely vulnerable to sunlight damage.

And most of the damage is permanent.

But it's unlikely that you'll go totally blind.

Having said all that, there are ways to safely view a solar eclipse.

Happy (safe) viewing!

See all of BuzzFeed's eclipse stories here, and buy your BuzzFeed eclipse viewing glasses here!