Enjoy the Eclipse Without Hurting Your Eyes

Today the solar eclipse sweeps across North America, and there is much talk about how to enjoy the eclipse safely without hurting your eyes. Since viewing a partial eclipse can fry your naked eyes, as reported by many news channels, be sure to watch safely. Here are some ways:

Wear safe solar eclipse glasses. It is never safe to look directly a partial eclipse (what most of the U.S. will experience) without special glasses or filters, reports NPR, who quotes optometrist Ralph Chou who says he has seen patients over the years with distinct crescent-shaped scars from looking at a solar eclipse.

Tunisian children watch eclipse

Tunisian children wear protective glasses as they watch a solar eclipse in 2013. | Fethi Belaid/AFP/Getty Images

Many reports have flooded the news of unsafe, counterfeit eclipse viewing glasses. The American Astronomical Society (AAS) provides a list of “solar viewer” brands whose glasses have been verified by an accredited testing laboratory to meet international safety standards.

The society explains that if a supplier doesn’t appear on their list, that doesn’t necessarily mean its products are unsafe, “only that we have no knowledge of them or that we haven’t convinced ourselves they are safe.”

The lenses of solar eclipse glasses should be dark. If you can see ordinary household lights through the lenses, that is no good, according to AAS. “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, [the filter] is no good.”

Use a pinhole projector. If you don’t have approved solar eclipse glasses, you can make a pinhole projector using common items found around the house, such as a cereal box. This project will allow you to see a reflected image of the event, rather than looking directly at the eclipse itself. ABC News provides step-by-step directions on creating the pinhole projector by cutting a tiny hole into tinfoil adhered to a cereal box, and attaching white paper to another part of the box. During the eclipse, you will see the sun projected onto the paper inside the box.

Man looks through pinhole projector

An astronomer looks at a pinhole projector showing images of a partial solar eclipse in 2015 in Tel Aviv. | Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

The AAS also provides information and directions for viewing the eclipse using pinhole projection, as well as viewing the eclipse using optical projection, sun funnels, and other means.