Q&A: X-ray Astronomy
Can we look at the Sun through X-rays during a solar eclipse
or would our eyes be damaged?
Let's begin with how our
eyes work. Our eyes are only sensitive to a narrow band of
electromagnetic radiation (or light). The range of wavelengths of
light that we can detect with our eyes is approximately 400 - 700
nanometers. This range is called visible light.
More on the electromagnetic spectrum:
X-rays have much shorter wavelengths, and we cannot see them. In order
to detect x-rays we must build telescopes like Chandra, with special
detectors which can "see" X-rays.
It turns out that Chandra's X-ray detectors are sensitive enough that
Chandra cannot be pointed directly at the Sun or they would be severely
Similarly, our eyes are sensitive enough that looking at the Sun
directly damages them. The only time it would be safe to look at the
Sun directly is during a full solar eclipse - only when the Moon covers
the Sun completely. For more information on how to keep your eyes
protected during eclipses, please see NASA's Eye Safety During Solar