It’s been 38 years since the last total solar eclipse was visible in the continental United States. And even then, it was only seen in totality in a handful of states in the Northwest. The upcoming eclipse slated for August 21, however, is going to be huge. Tens of millions are expected to catch a glimpse — and, of course, scammers are trying to take advantage of them.
While the people living within a 70-mile-wide swath from Oregon to South Carolina, the eclipse’s “path of totality,” will have the best view as day falls into darkness for two-and-a-half minutes, the rest of the continent will experience a partial eclipse. Which means dusk-like conditions and a bright crescent sun peeking out from behind the moon for between two to three hours. Assuming no clouds, everybody gets a look. And that’s the problem.
Even quick glances at a partially eclipsed sun is dangerous ⏤ for adults and kids ⏤ and can cause permanent eye damage, so you need to wear special darkened glasses. (Or channel your inner elementary school science teacher and make one of those pin-hole projectors.) Many of the glasses currently flying off online shelves, however, are counterfeit and don’t meet proper safety standards. They’re being manufactured by disreputable companies and won’t protect your kid’s eyes, specifically the back of them, from being singed by the sun.
The problem has gotten bad enough that the American Astronomical Society’s (AAS) Solar Eclipse Task Force felt compelled earlier this week to reissue new safety guidelines and provide a more comprehensive list of “reputable manufacturers and authorized dealers of solar filters and viewers.” In general, glasses need to meet the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard, use a #14 or darker filter, and shouldn’t be scratched or more than three years old.
A few of the recommended companies include APM Telescopes, DayStar, and American Paper Optics, while official glasses can be purchased at brick-and-mortar retailers like Toys “R” US, Hobby Town, and 7-11. The list includes only vendors the AAS has worked or is familiar with, but they’re quick to point that if a supplier isn’t listed, that doesn’t mean the company’s glasses are unsafe ⏤ only that the AAS doesn’t have enough information to make a judgment. Proceed at your own risk.
To see if a pair of solar glasses meets the proper standards before you buy, check out the full AAS list here.