By Sarah Pridgeon
If you are planning to watch the solar eclipse on August 21, whether you’re heading south to reach the path of totality or gazing at the skies from Crook County, it’s important to be aware that you will need eclipse glasses or handheld solar glasses to do so.
Particularly outside the path of totality, viewers must keep their eye protection in place at all times because the sun will at no point be fully obscured.
Watching the eclipse without protection can cause permanent eye damage – and watching it with fake protective gear can be just as much of a problem. The Wyoming Department of Health has issued a warning that counterfeit solar eclipse glasses are being sold by disreputable vendors hoping to cash in on the event.
Only protective gear verified to meet ISO 12312-2 are safe to use – a standard thousands of times darker than regular sunglasses. However, counterfeit makers are now placing fake ISO labels on their goods, making it difficult to tell whether your purchase is as safe as it claims to be.
According to the American Astronomical Society, it is not possible to check for yourself whether your glasses meet the standards as this requires specialized equipment. However, while wearing a safe pair of glasses, you should not be able to see anything through them aside from the sun itself or something comparably bright.
If you are able to see ordinary lights, your glasses are not safe for eclipse viewing. A safe solar filter, says the society, will produce a view of the sun that is comfortably bright and surrounded by dark sky; if you find it uncomfortable to glance at the sun, the sun is out of focus or the sun is surrounded by a bright haze, your glasses are likely fake.
To combat the problem of counterfeit glasses, the society has identified the companies whose products are certified safe by recognized authorities and whose certification is confirmed as genuine. This list, along with a list of reputable vendors, can be found at eclipse.aas.org/solar-filters.