GREENSBORO, N.C. - When you look directly at a solar eclipse without protection, it's not the outside white part of your eye that gets hurt. It's the inner dark part of your eye because that absorbs more heat.

"They will start steaming - you're actually cooking part of the retina structures with an extended exposure," said Ralph Chou. He's an astronomer and ophthalmologist. He's also one of the world's leading researchers on eye damage related to looking at the solar eclipse.

"And as they break down they release a variety of chemicals," Chou said.

He says it's basically like taking hydrogen peroxide and throwing it right in your eyes.

"Which in turn attack other structures within the cell and it's a snowball effect that all this damage creates chemical injuries," he said.

So that's the science. This is the reality. Crescent shaped burns at the back of someone's eye who started at an eclipse.

"He was an Indian chap who bet his friends a few rupees that he'd be able to look at the partial solar eclipse and still have his vision. And luckily he collected when he went to bed that night because apparently he woke up blind," Chou said.

He says that is the worst case he's ever seen, but a few hundred other people have had documented minor eye damage from eclipses. Some of which happened in less than a minute of looking at the sun.

"If you loose your vision, you don't get it back," he said.

Ben Briscoe WFMY News 2