Tips for Safe Eclipse Viewing…from Someone Who Learned a Hard Way

Rod Pyle is a space historian who has worked with NASA during a Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a Johnson Space Center. He has combined 10 books on a story and record of space scrutiny and science, including “Mars: Making Contact” (Carlton Books, 2016), “Blueprint for a Battlestar” (Sterling Publishing, 2016) and “Amazing Stories of a Space Age” (Prometheus Books, 2017). His newest book, “Space 2.0,” will entrance in 2018. You can listen to Pyle’s podcast about eclipse-viewing reserve herePyle contributed this essay to Space.com’s Expert Voices: Op-Ed Insights.


On Aug. 21, 2017, a sum solar eclipse will be manifest opposite a continental U.S., seashore to coast, for a initial time given 1918. Millions of people will organisation to a trail of assemblage to see this pretentious spectacle.

Many millions some-more will try to perspective a prejudiced phases of a obscure in other tools of a country. If we are among that organisation of skywatchers, we might be tempted to take a discerning demeanour during a partially eclipsed object with your exposed eye, or to use unsound rigging to perspective a prejudiced phases.

Don’t.

I noticed prejudiced solar eclipses with unsound apparatus as a child, and mislaid scarcely half my prophesy in one eye. Trust me, it’s not value it. And a misfortune part? There are no pain receptors in your eyes, so we won’t know we are deleterious them until a few days after when it’s too late.[A Solar Eclipse Can Blind You (Read This Before Looking during a Sun!)]

A total solar obscure occurs when a moon passes between a Earth and a sun, totally restraint out a full hole of a sun. During this event, if we are within a trail of assemblage (the segment that falls inside a moon’s middle shadow), a sky darkens and we will be means to see a solar corona, a extended atmosphere of a object done adult of plasma and fluctuating millions of miles over a prejudiced of a object that is routinely manifest to us. Before and after totality, and in a far-reaching area outward a trail of totality, we will see prejudiced phases of a eclipse. It’s these prejudiced phases that are so potentially dangerous. 

If we devise on observation a sum eclipse, we will need to conduct to a 70-mile-wide trail of totality. The prejudiced obscure starts on a Oregon seashore during 9:04 a.m. PDT, and reaches assemblage during 10:15 a.m. PDT. The shade will cranky a nation and assemblage will finish on a shores of Charleston, South Carolina, during 2:47 EDT. NASA and the website eclipse2017.org have interactive maps that yield specific times for a prejudiced and sum obscure start and finish in a given spot.

You can also visit Space.com for a live solar obscure webcast, pleasantness of NASA, commencement during 12 p.m. EDT (1600 GMT). 

Anywhere outward this mezzanine in North America (as good as some tools of South America, Africa and Europe), we will be saying some commission of a object eclipsed by a moon. It’s value looking at, yet usually with a pinnacle caring and correct precautions.

Watching a prejudiced proviso of a sum solar obscure on Jul 22, 2009, in China.
Credit: NASA/Ryan Milligan

Seeing a sum solar obscure is said to be an strange event. If we can’t make it into a trail of totality, observation a prejudiced phases is also exciting—but not value losing your eyesight for. It’s all too easy to let a impulse of enticement lead to a permanent disability.

When we was a immature child in a 1960s, my father bought me an inexpensive telescope that enclosed a solar filter we could screw into a eyepiece. There was a warning printed on a filter to use usually for brief periods, yet what 8-year-old follows such instructions?

I used a device to perspective sunspots and prejudiced solar eclipses, yet adult supervision, for a few years. By my late 40s, we had prophesy difficulty with my right eye — a same eye we used for observation a sun. Soon we had cataracts — that were, according to a eye surgeon, a outcome of bearing to UV light from a sun, severely accelerated by a use of a unsound solar filter. we was forced to bear medicine to reinstate a lenses in both eyes. And we was lucky; had that tiny screw-in eyepiece filter burst during use (a not sparse occurrence) we would have been now blinded by 50-power magnification of approach sunlight.

Other people have identical stories, yet they all finish with a same outcome — some kind of permanent eye damage. It doesn’t seem all that critical until your prophesy starts to gray-out, mislay concentration and dim; afterwards it unequivocally gets your attention.

Skywatchers use telescopes with solar filters to observe a sum solar obscure of Mar 29, 2006, in Antalya, Turkey. Wearing solar observation eyeglasses will not strengthen your eyes when used with binoculars or telescopes  we contingency have an suitable filter.
Credit: NASA/Ryan Milligan

This can't be stressed enough: Be intelligent and perspective a obscure safely. Even brief glances during a object can means permanent eye damage. To observe any proviso of a obscure before or after assemblage — and even right on a verge of it — we need certified eye protection.

There are hundreds of vendors all over a nation and online offered “eclipse glasses” and “eclipse viewers,” yet be wary. You contingency be certain that a observation device we buy is rated for reserve by a ISO, or International Standards Organization. Their rating, that contingency be printed on a observation device, should review “ISO 12312-2.” This means that a observation middle will retard all damaging solar deviation and can be used to safely perspective a object anytime.

But there are also many unethical parties out there making knockoffs with cheaper materials, and some even have a ISO acceptance secretly printed on them.

How can we make certain we are removing a genuine deal?

The usually approach to be certain that we are safeguarding your eyes, and those of your family, is to buy your observation device from a creditable source. See this list of authorized manufacturers and vendors combined by a American Astronomical Society. Purchasing during a brick-and-mortar tradesman is a best bet.

The site also lists a series of creditable online outlets, yet unless we can get guaranteed overnight shipping, it’s substantially too late. Amazon ships quickly, yet a hunt for “eclipse glasses” turns adult a far-reaching array of inclination that might or might not be safe, yet many of a vendors advise that they are. You contingency be certain that a device we buy is made by a famous supplier, is truly ISO-certified and is code new (eclipse eyeglasses and other object filters can reduce over time and with use). Also, to be additional sure, check that a inclination are shipping from that manufacturer and being over by Amazon — otherwise, we have no thought what we will indeed receive.

Amazon is doing what they can to strengthen consumers — they recently released a remember for many obscure viewers — yet they will not locate all offenders. The same binds loyal for a websites of Walmart, Target, K-Mart and others — small, third-party vendors are offered viewers of controversial peculiarity during rarely arrogant prices. Don’t take chances — a best approach to be certain your viewers are protected is to buy directly from a tradesman in a brick-and-mortar outlet.

Note that many public libraries and scholarship museums are giving divided giveaway viewers until their reserve are exhausted. These are reputed to be protected for use.

Regardless of where we get your obscure viewers, check them before use — your perspective of a object should be sincerely dim, with no lines or splendid spots. If this is not a case, toss them and find another pair. The AAS website also has guidelines for how to check if your viewers are safe.

Also, if a cosmetic lens on a span of obscure viewers is creased or scratched, do not use them (even if they are authorized safe). And it we have bought safe, authorized card viewers, don’t put them in a slot where they might get folded or creased — a lens’ surfaces need to be kept prosaic and non-abraded. This is generally applicable for children — give them a viewers usually when you’re prepared to manipulate their observation of a sun, and keep observation durations brief.

The safest and many foolproof approach to perspective a prejudiced proviso of a obscure is with a pinhole projector. These are easy to make and positively protected if used properly.

Take a box lid or paper picture and punch a hole by it with a tiny nail. Then take a second paper picture or square of card and reason or mountain it about 18 to 24 inches from a pinhole. Angle a apparatus so that a pinholed piece is perpendicular with a light from a sun, and we will see a tiny picture of a solar hoop projected onto a second sheet. This is not an picture of a hole, yet an visual facsimile of a sun’s disk.

Do not demeanour during a object by a pinhole!  This is a common misperception of how pinhole projectors work and will blind you. This device is for projection only. Practice with it before a day of a obscure so you’re not fiddling around during a final impulse — it takes some removing used to.

You can perspective a obscure in a prejudiced phases from anywhere in a continental U.S. Many people will be drawn to public observation events. But again, be clever what inclination we use.

If someone has set adult a object projector, that’s good — suffer it. There might be telescopes set adult with solar filters charity giveaway viewing, and if they are from a internal observatory, university or museum, it is substantially protected to perspective — yet no guarantees. If it’s usually some foreigner with a telescope and a filter, you’re holding a possibility that they are regulating something unsafe, and it’s substantially not value a risk. Don’t stoop to enticement unless we are gentle that a filter in use is 100 percent safe.

A perspective of a totally eclipsed sun, seen from Palm Cove, Australia in 2012.
Credit: Ian Hitchcock/Getty

If you’re propitious adequate to be in a trail of totality, we might perspective a obscure with a exposed eye and even binoculars. But we contingency be certain to wait until assemblage and to stop good before a finish of assemblage — object rising past a moon’s hoop will be magnified and do repairs to your eyes. There are eclipse timer apps accessible for your smartphone.

Protect your eyes, and manipulate your children while observation any prejudiced of a eclipse. Put on obscure observation eyeglasses before looking towards a partially eclipsed sun, and mislay them after looking away. Do your homework, use usually authorized viewers, and ready to suffer one of nature’s biggest eyeglasses safely.

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