If you want to buy safety glasses for viewing Monday afternoon’s rare solar eclipse and haven’t got them yet, good luck. But be careful that what you get is the real thing.
Through anecdotal reports from people looking for eclipse glasses, the Statesboro Herald has learned that several stores in town that carried them have sold out. Of course, many internet sources offer the glasses, but some people report getting glasses that are not certified safe.
Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn, in an email Thursday to recipients of his daily weather advisories, warned of the need to make sure that eclipse safety glasses are certified.
“No doubt many of you will be watching the eclipse on Monday,” Wynn wrote. “I wanted to be sure that you really determine if the glasses you have purchased are safe. If they are not – it isn’t worth the risk.”
As he noted, NASA endorses eclipse glasses that are certified by the International Organization for Standardization. These carry the designation ISO-12312-2. Sometimes the label has it as “ISO 12312-2:2015.” These provide infrared and ultraviolet protection, as well as reducing visible light.
Wynn knows firsthand that substandard, or at least risky, glasses are available online. After ordering three pairs of eclipse glasses through Amazon.com, he received a notice from Amazon that the specific vendor that supplied these had not certified them.
“You know, I think that they probably are safe, but the vendor has not been able to certify that through Amazon, so Amazon is going to issue me a full refund, but that doesn’t help me with getting glasses before the event,” Wynn said in a phone call.
Getting scarce online
For one brand of eclipse glasses, advertised as ISO certified, that previously sold for $15.95 for 12 pairs, Amazon’s product page this week carries the notice: “Currently unavailable. We don't know when or if this item will be back in stock.”
Certified glasses apparently still available through Amazon, but to be shipped from other retailers, carry prices such as $49.99 for five pairs plus $6.95 for shipping. A four-pack of child-sized glasses was listed for $44.95 with free shipping, but up popped the notice: “Back-ordered. Due in stock August 20.” That’s Sunday.
Meanwhile, anecdotal reports don’t mean that there isn’t a store somewhere in the Statesboro area with the glasses. The Herald has not attempted to survey local retailers.
The point is to avoid risking permanent damage to the retina, the back of the eye where light is detected, by looking at the sun through inferior or improvised safety glasses.
“They need to be the right type of glasses,” said Professor Clayton Heller, Ph.D., director of the Georgia Southern University Planetarium. “You can’t use sunglasses, for instance.”
He also advised throwing away any eclipse glasses more than a few years old and any that have been scratched or bent.
You can’t feel it
A story published here Sunday by Associated Press aerospace writer Marcia Dunn carried warnings by various vision experts and noted: “Seconds are enough for retinal sunburn. And unlike the skin, you can’t feel it.”
Sometimes the effects are permanent.
As Heller told the Herald, the fact that Statesboro is not in the path of totality means there will be no safe time, not even seconds, to look at the sun here without protection.
The path of totality, about 70 miles wide, will extend from Salem, Oregon across the country to Charleston, South Carolina. The moon casts a dark shadow that wide as it passes in front of the sun from these positions, blocking the light from the sun’s disk, or photosphere. From Statesboro, the closest destinations where people can see the day turn to night for a little more than two minutes Monday afternoon are in South Carolina.
But here, the moon will obscure at most 97 percent of the disk, reaching that maximum at about 2:44 p.m., astronomers have predicted. And many knowledgeable sources, from astronomers to optometrists, are advising the public that even 99 percent coverage is not the same as totality. Less than 1 percent of the sun’s surface shining through could cause eye damage.
Another way to view the eclipse is with a pinhole projector, such as those made from cereal boxes, that allow you to see a dimmed reflection of the sun while looking away. Yet another, and obviously very safe, option is to watch the eclipse through the internet or on television. NASA’s livestreaming page is www.nasa.gov/eclipselive.
Wynn also posted some informative graphics on the “Bulloch County Public Safety/EMA” Facebook page. One piece of advice there is that even certified eclipse glasses will not make viewing the sun through a camera, telescope or binoculars safe. Those devices must be fitted with special filters for sun safety.
“Be informed and be safe,” Wynn advised in his email. “Don’t risk your eyes.”
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.