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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – We are just 10 days away from the first total solar eclipse in almost 100 years.

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Watching the celestial event is a rare experience, but it also carries a lot of dangers.

Leonard Bates, 80, was just nine years old when he saw his first eclipse. He said he made his own viewer instead using solar glasses.

“I didn’t think it was necessary to buy smoked glass so I smoked some glass myself with a candle,” said Bates.

That decision cost him. He permanently lost some vision in his right eye.

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Millions of Americans are getting ready to view the eclipse on August 21st. Dr. Russell Van Gelder, spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, warns that partial or total blindness is a very real risk if you don’t have proper eye protection.

“It’s so dangerous for people to look at the sun even for brief periods of time because you can cause permanent damage to the retina – we call it solar retinopathy and it’s really very close to burning a hole in the retina,” said Van Gelder.

The only one way to safely view a partial or total eclipse is with certified solar glasses – simple sunglasses are not enough.

The American Astronomical Society has a list of reputable eclipse glasses and hand-held viewers on its website – stamped with this approval code – 12312-2. You will also need to use solar filters on cell phones, cameras, binoculars, and telescopes.

“The other piece of advice I have is when you’re watching the eclipse with your children, be sure your kids have their eye protection on. It’s very exciting for them and they want to take the eye protection off,” said Van Gelder.

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Bates, who still has vision in his left eye, plans to watch upcoming eclipse on television.