No, Seriously, Don’t Look at the Sun During the Eclipse Without Special Glasses

The extent of damage depends on how long someone stares at the sun. Even a few seconds could be destructive.


“It can range from blurry vision to absolute permanent vision loss,” said Dr. Christopher Quinn, president of the American Optometric Association. While vision loss doesn’t mean you’d go black and see nothing, you’d lose your fine vision, he said. That means it’d be hard to read even the large E at the top of an eye chart.

So wear those eclipse glasses, or find a way to view the eclipse indirectly, like making a pinhole projector. “This is a historic event and we want everybody to enjoy it, but to do so safely,” Dr. Quinn said.

How to be sure your glasses are safe

Look at the back of your glasses. They should note that they are compliant with ISO 12312-2, an international safety standard.

Of course, any shady vendor could falsely print that claim, and many have. Vendors, including Amazon, have recalled some eyeglasses after questioning the authenticity of their certification. You can refer to NASA’s list of reputable vendors of solar filters and viewers to check on your own, though the website was down on Monday morning.

Reputable vendors are required to print their name and address on the glasses or in the packaging, along with instructions and warnings. You might want to take a minute to Google the company; if they don’t have much of a presence on the web, that could be a red flag.

How to Watch a Solar Eclipse

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Make sure the glasses aren’t scratched or damaged.

You should also try an old-fashioned eye test. If you put on your glasses without looking at the sun, you shouldn’t be able to see anything. If light is peeking through, the glasses probably aren’t trustworthy.

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Here are NASA’s tips on how to view the eclipse safely.

A cautionary tale

In Excelsior Springs, Mo., a tall sign flashed to anyone driving by: “ATTENTION: DO NOT USE OUR GLASSES.”

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It was a desperate plea by the nearby auto repair shop to tell warn locals about glasses they had sold, which employees no longer trusted.

Carol Bishop, the owner of EZ Quick Lube, said they had sold about 800 pairs. She’d ordered from the same vendor she usually bought T-shirts from. She pointed to an email from him, taped to the counter for all to see that said:

“Yes these are certified to filter 100% ultraviolet ray, 99.9 percent % infrared rays, ISO certified 12312-12. So hand them out with confidence!”

But a customer had called to point out that there wasn’t supposed to be a 1 and 2 at the end — just a 2. And since then, further inquiries had made them increasingly distrustful of the glasses.

“Now we’re kind of like: How do we know if he’s telling the truth or not?” she said. “We don’t want anyone to get hurt from it.”

As of Monday morning, about 40 of the customers had come back for a refund.

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