Can You Wear a Welding Helmet to View an Eclipse? Yes, it is possible to view a solar eclipse while wearing a welding helmet.
According to NASA, if you wear a welding helmet with at least Shade 12, “Experts suggest that welders glass of sufficiently high number can provide you with safe solar viewing.”.
Only those of Shade 12 or higher are safe for direct Sun viewing.”
However, many people (including myself) find that Shade 13 provides the best view. Just avoid Shade 14 if you don’t want the eclipse to be too dark.
Eclipses occur when a planet or a moon passes into the shadow of another heavenly body.
Even though an eclipse may appear spectacular, it is dangerous to stare directly into the sun during an eclipse.
Solar eclipse glasses have been developed by optical scientists with solar filters for eye protection against the harmful effects of direct sunlight.
It might be the case that you have a welding helmet in your tool shed. Are welding helmets suitable for observing eclipses?
I would like us to discuss the dangers associated with viewing a solar eclipse and the benefits and disadvantages of using various welding helmets as a tool for viewing an eclipse.
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How Do Welding Masks Keep Your Eyes Safe?
In welding masks, your entire face is covered, and you can see what you are doing through a window on the front. These windows are tinted based upon the amount of UV or infrared light you will need to filter out.
- The UV or infrared lights come from the reaction of heat against metal, which differs depending on what kind of metal you are welding.
- Most people purchase helmets in a dark shade so they can use them for all types of metals and projects.
- A welding mask provides full coverage, so it is fantastic to use. Unlike traditional sunglasses, they stay on better than regular frames and can be worn over glasses.
- Your eyes will be completely protected from UV rays if the shade is dark enough and free of cracks and scratches.
- Depending on what you need, you can buy two types of welding masks, each in a different shade level.
- To prevent damaging UV rays from reaching your eyes, welding masks have darkened lenses designed to filter out individual wavelengths of light. UV light can’t be completely blocked, but the filters filter out enough for your eyes to not be damaged.
- To use a shade of 2, you can’t go lower (and worse). Besides protecting your eyes from indirect sunlight, it is not suitable for use while torch soldering.
- When used for anything other than its intended purpose, a 2 shade can cause serious damage.
- The highest shade, 14, will protect your eyes from almost all UV rays, regardless of what you are viewing.
Note: NASA recommends a special solar filter in lieu of a welding helmet if you can not find anything else. The filter is specifically designed to protect your eyes from UV light as much as possible.
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Auto-Darkening Welding Masks
Because different metals emit different wavelengths of light, some of these welding helmets don’t auto-darken to level 12.
Usually these helmets will have a maximum darkening rate and their strength will be labeled.
Furthermore, these helmets have sensitivity and delay settings so that they can react more quickly to darkening conditions.
While you will experience fewer UV rays from the quick response to darkness, you may also experience a darker view when you don’t need it.
Using and setting the mask’s settings correctly is essential to ensuring that your eyes are protected.
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Fixed Shaded Welding Masks
Shades of darkness are applied to these masks. Each helmet is assigned a number that corresponds to how much UV and infrared light it blocks.
You would need different ones if the metals had different shades. Auto-darkening masks are generally cheaper.
The following welding masks are among the best-rated ones:
- TOOLIOM 3.97×3.7 inch Large Viewing Welding Helmet True Color Welding Mask – Different styles in ranging prices for budget-friendly decisions
- YESWELDER Large Viewing True Color Solar Powered Auto Darkening
- Antra AH6-260-0000 Auto Darkening Welding Helmet – A very basic helmet with coverage to shade 13, very budget-friendly.
How Do Welding Masks Protect Your Eyes?
You can get sunburned on your eyes, just like you can on your skin. Sunlight emits what are known as ultraviolet rays, which may cause eye damage.
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UV rays can cause the following damage:
Ultraviolet C (UVC) – the Ozone blocks nearly all of these harmful rays
UVB (Ultraviolet B) – less powerful than UVC, but still causes skin and eye damage.
UVA (Ultraviolet A) – rays are the weakest of all the rays, yet they can seriously damage your eyes.
Your eyes can suffer from a long list of issues if you let them be exposed to unprotected sunlight:
Irritability- grittiness, itching, burning, stinging.
Sensitivity – difficulties looking at bright screens or being outside at all without proper eye protection
Cataracts: a breakdown of the proteins in your eye lens, resulting in vision impairment
Macular Degeneration, caused by the breakdown of the central part of the retina, usually causes blindness
Punguecula – raised yellow bumps on the outside of the eye lens; usually reversible, but irritating
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Facts and Tips About Eye Damage
There is no shortage of eye injuries. A great deal of misinformation exists, however, regarding the causes and effects of eye damage. The following facts will help you understand the importance of protecting your eyes, even when spending a few seconds in the sun:
If the sun is particularly intense that specific day, eye damage can take place within 100 seconds.
Due to the amount of light your eye will absorb, drugs that dilate your pupil can speed up the damaging effects of UV light.
Sunlight’s damaging effects are usually seen later in life, usually in the 50s or later, sometimes due to small moments throughout a person’s life.
The damage can be short-term and can cause blindness within just a few minutes of staring directly at the sun. It is, however, extremely painful to do so.
Wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays to help prevent long-term damage
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How Solar Eclipse Glasses Work
Firstly, let’s look at what solar eclipse glasses are, and why they work as a means of protecting your eyes against the sun.
We are interested in only three parts of sunlight: visible light that appears to us as a part of the electromagnetic spectrum as well as UVB and UVA rays.
Welding helmets and traditional sunglasses protect what is visible to your eye from other parts of your body.
What concerns me most is the second and third points.
Unfortunately, sunglasses block only a small portion of UVA and UVB rays, making them ineffective against these harmful rays.
Glass and glass blends with polycarbonate or plastic materials are generally the only materials used in sunglasses, as with welding helmet visors.
UVA and UVB rays are blocked by only about 10 to 20% of these. In addition, it does not completely block all visible light.
Sunglasses are therefore unable to provide a safe way for a person to see the sun for extremely long periods of time, much less do so during a solar eclipse.
Besides the special solar eclipse glasses described above, regular glasses and welding visors are also dark and strong, although their strength is approximately 100,000 times as great as their appearance.
Another material used in them is black polymer containing resin and carbon particles. Hence, they are safer than regular sunglasses when viewing the sun because they block out all UV rays and many visible wavelengths.
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The Consequences of Staring Directly at the Sun
Taking the sun too close has tragic consequences for Icarus. Ideally, you shouldn’t even look at the sun at all, as that will lead to the same fate.
What will happen if you fail to heed that warning?
UVB rays and UVA rays can cause extensive eye damage, resulting in blurred vision, pain, and even permanent blindness.
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How does this happen?
As part of your eye’s outer surface, the cornea is responsible for the appearance of the eye. Although still quite delicate, UV light might not be the best thing for exposing it to the intensity.
Experiencing UV rays causes the cornea’s cells to burn, resulting in blisters and cracks in your eyes. Those horrifying symptoms are called photokeratitis, and you should avoid them at all costs.
So, if you observe the sun straight-on – whether in a welding helmet or without one – and feel fine, don’t think you are cheating.
Once photokeratitis has started to manifest, its effects can take several hours to emerge, and it often wreaks havoc on the eye. Inflammation, swelling, and rawness can cause gritty, uncomfortable feelings in your eyes.
It is possible that this sensation might pass in a few hours if you rest your eyes promptly and completely after it occurs. It is possible to damage your eyes permanently if you stare at the sun for too long or are not so lucky.
When your retinas are overstimulated, they release chemicals which damage your eyes when they are released all at once in large numbers.
As a result, staring at the sun causes one of the most serious types of eye damage. Although you think glasses or most welding masks would be able to block out this light, as demonstrated above, this isn’t the case.
There are no solar eclipse glasses that are specially designed to protect your retina from the sun’s UV rays and the damage they can cause to your retinas, macular, and corneas, unless they are constructed with materials that offer the extreme shaded darkness that is required.
Generally, the more damaged your eye’s tissues are, the less likely it is for them to recover. In most cases, the maximum period of recovery is 12 months. There is very little chance that your eyes will ever recover if they have not recovered by then.
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The welding mask can also be used to look at the sun or an eclipse. To make sure your helmet will protect you, you need to know what shade it is, and you shouldn’t take it off when you are looking at the sun.
By covering the spaces above and below regular sunglasses, welding masks drastically reduce the chances of harming yourself by looking at UV light.
Avoid trying to get a “better view” of the sun, along with the dangers of sun exposure. Protect your eyes instead. Eyes are too important a tool to risk damage by not protecting them.