Summary of eRumor:
As Americans prepared for a full solar eclipse on August 21, 2017, online retailers began pushing solar eclipse glasses as a must-have safety device for viewing the solar eclipse.
Warnings about the dangers of staring into the sun during the August 21, 2017, solar eclipse are very real — and some, but not all, vendors of eclipse glasses were falsely claiming that their products could protect customers’ eyes from sun damage in the lead up to the total solar eclipse.
In the weeks leading up to the 2017 solar eclipse, online retailers began pushing solar eclipse glasses that look a lot like the disposable paper glasses that were handed out for 3D screenings during the 1990s. One such site, Eclipse2017.org, acknowledges that it’s only safe to look at the sun with the naked eye “through approved filter material designed and marketed expressly for direct solar viewing,” and then links to its eclipse glasses with the implication that they are approved for solar viewing.
But the American Astronomical Society (AAS) warns that scammers are falsely claiming to meet certification requirements for solar filters and were selling products that could leave people with damaged vision. The only safe viewing of the sun (aside for the one or two minutes that it’s completely behind the moon during a solar eclipse) is through solar filters or viewers that meet the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard. The problem is that counterfeit retailers have falsely labeled their products as ISO 12312-2 compliant.
The first step in ensuring that eclipse glasses are safe is to buy from a company that appears on the AAS list of reputable vendors of solar filters and viewers. If you’ve already purchased a eclipse glasses, here’s what to look for:
How can you tell if your solar viewer is not safe? The only thing you can see through a safe solar filter from a reputable vendor is the Sun itself. If you can see ordinary household lights through your eclipse glasses or handheld viewer, it’s no good. Safe solar filters produce a view of the Sun that is comfortably bright (like the full Moon), in focus, and surrounded by black sky. If you glance at the Sun through your solar filter and find it uncomfortably bright, out of focus, and surrounded by a murky haze, it’s no good.
NASA warns that dark sunglasses cannot be safely used to look into the sun, and that people should never try to make their own solar viewer at home:
“While NASA isn’t trying to be the eclipse safety glasses ‘police,’ it’s our duty to inform the public about safe ways to view what should be a spectacular sky show for the entire continental United States,” said Alex Young, associate director for science in the Heliophysics Science Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “It’s important that individuals take the responsibility to check they have the proper solar eclipse viewing glasses. With the eclipse a month away today, it’s prudent to practice ahead of time.”
In the end, eclipse glasses and solar viewers should only be purchased from reputable vendors. And NASA has many more tips and resources available to help people safely view the total solar eclipse in August 2017.
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