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People could permanently damage their eyesight and even risk blindness if they look directly at the moon passing between the sun and the earth between approximately 8.00am and 9.30am on 4 January 2011, the Government's Interim Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies warned today.
The safest way to watch the eclipse is on the television or live webcasts on the internet. Observing the eclipse directly through a telescope, binoculars or camera is not safe under any circumstances. In addition, sunglasses, and photographic film are also wholly inadequate and should not be used to view the eclipse. Only specially designed solar filters (bearing appropriate CE mark*) can be used to safely view the eclipse directly.Dame Sally Davies said:“Under no circumstances should people look directly at the sun during a partial eclipse. The risks of doing so are very real and could lead to irreversible damage to eyesight and even blindness.“Children are particularly vulnerable as they may be tempted to take a peek. We would urge parents to explain the danger to their children. We would not wish to see another case like the young boy who lost his central vision back in October 2005 through looking directly at a partial eclipse in his school playground.”Anita Lightstone, Programme Director UK Vision Strategy, from the Royal National Institute of Blind People, said:"It is vital that people take the issue of eye safety seriously. People who look directly at the sun, even for as little as five seconds, risk permanent eye damage, even blindness."This advice has the support of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, College of Optometrists, Royal National Institute of Blind People and incorporates advice from the Royal Astronomical Society.ENDSNotes to EditorsFor general media queries or to request an interview, please contact the Department of Health press office on 0207 210 5221
From the UK the eclipse will already have begun when the sun rises in the South-East after 8am (London 8.06, Manchester 8.24am and Glasgow 8.46). The eclipse will end at or shortly after 09.30 for viewers in the UK.
The percentage of the solar eclipse obscured in the middle of the eclipse varies considerably across the UK, with the South-Eastern quarter seeing over two-thirds obscured while from the Western Isles of Scotland, as little as a quarter is covered. London, will see almost three-quarters obscured at maximum eclipse, Liverpool and Plymouth just under 70% and Glasgow barely 40%.
The CE marking (also known as CE mark) is a mandatory conformance mark on many products placed on the single market in the European Economic Area (EEA). The CE marking certifies that a product has met EU consumer safety, health or environmental requirements.