Apparently, not all welder's masks have dark enough glass to watch a solar eclipse. Take it from me, and my very stupid mistake.

A few years back there was a partial solar eclipse that was visible here. I didn't have a pair of darkened glasses to observe it, but I did have a welder's mask. I assumed that if the lenses were dark enough to protect your eyes from an arc welder, surely they would protect against the sun.

Close-up of a Industrial Welder holding welding Torch with welding sparks.
Kamonchai Mattakulphon

So I grabbed my welder's mask and stared directly at the sun and watched the partial eclipse. I didn't watch it for hours, just a couple of minutes.

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Later on that night, I noticed how itchy my eyes were. I went to the mirror and saw that they were bloodshot. (Insert joke here.) No, it wasn't from any substances or irritants in my eye.

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It turns out I burned my retinas. I diagnosed myself on WebMD and then looked up the information about how dark welders' masks are and if they are recommended for viewing a solar eclipse.

Red Eye

Long story short, no they are not. Some might be, but the level of shade needed is 12. The recommended shade for a welder's mask for an arc welder is 10. They even get less dark than that.

The Great North America Eclipse is coming April 8th. The direct path is a stretch from Texas to Maine in North America.

NASA says you need to have glasses that comply with the ISO 12312-2 international standard. They offer other ways you can still enjoy the eclipse, like indirect viewing. You can make a pinhole projector or an eclipse projector.

Besides protecting your eyes, NASA also recommends you wear sunscreen because you will be in the sun for an extended period of time.

Fortunately in my case by the next day, my eyes stopped hurting, my vision was fine, and I didn't have any permanent damage. It was very, very uncomfortable that night. In the years since I had LASIK eye surgery and that recovery process reminded me of the time I burned my retinas by stupidly looking through a welder's mask at the sun.

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