As you prepare for the solar eclipse on Aug. 21, remember: Not all eclipse viewing glasses are created equal.
You will want to make sure that yours meet a specific worldwide standard known as ISO 12312-2 (ISO stands for International Standards Organization), which means they are safe for looking directly at the sun. You’ll find the ISO information printed on your glasses. It’s sometimes written as ISO 12312-2:2015.
Glasses are available for purchase online and throughout the Valley, at local stores like REI, Idaho Camera and others; and free through public libraries beginning Aug. 1 on a first-come, first-served basis. (See box to learn which libraries are participating and holding special events.)
REI is selling the “Celestron EclipSmart Solar Shades Sun and Eclipse Observing Kit” with four pairs of glasses and a booklet with a complete eclipse timetable and map ($9.95) as well as a deluxe version that includes a photo filter for your phone or camera as well as glasses for you ($26.95). A third pack ($9.95) offers two pairs of glasses and a magnification filter.
Sales have been brisk, said Teri Garvin, an assistant store supervisor.
“Customers are excited. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said.
Initially, REI’s Boise store hadn’t planned to sell eclipse packs until staffers campaigned to corporate headquarters.
“Seeing as we’re in the path of totality,” said Brad Oakey, sales manager.
It was a good call. Eclipse packs have been selling as fast as the store can stock them, he said. Packs are available now, and more are on their way. Call ahead for availability to be sure.
Idaho Camera has safety equipment for your eyes and your cameras. They range from simple glasses for $3 to magnifying safety binoculars ($11.95 for a 2x magnifier, $39.95 for 10x magnifier) to the Celestron Solar Kit that includes glasses, a telescope, a filter, tripod and backpack to carry it all for $119.95.
Online, eclipse glasses can be purchased at eclipse2017.org, Amazon and many other retailers.
Once you have the glasses...
Even if your glasses have the proper ISO, inspect them closely before you use them to make sure they’re not damaged or torn. Dark sunglasses or homemade solar filters are not safe alternatives for eclipse viewing.
Those are just a few bits of information from the American Academy of Ophthalmology that Katherine Lee, a pediatric ophthalmologist at St. Luke’s Children’s Ophthalmology in Boise, is working to share.
Children, said Lee, are particularly at risk of eye damage during an eclipse. The lenses in children’s eyes are clear and thus more vulnerable to light. In addition, young children might not be capable of understanding the risk of sun exposure to their eyes.
“Any kid who can’t understand or follow instructions for viewing should not be included (during the actual eclipse),” Lee said.
Looking directly at the sun without proper eye protection can damage the retina, a condition called solar retinopathy. Solar retinopathy doesn’t cause pain. Symptoms may not be immediate, but they can include a permanent loss of vision, loss of color perception and distorted vision.
During totality, when the entire sun is fully covered, it’s OK to sneak a peek, said Lee. But be careful: Eyes are vulnerable as soon as a sliver of sun appears. Also, the pupils will be dilated in the fading light from the eclipse so will be extra vulnerable when light returns.
Protect your camera, too:
Lenses can magnify the light from the sun and damage your equipment, so you need to protect the lenses of your cameras — including the camera on your phone — your telescopes and any other lens with a solar filter. Filters are available at several local camera and outdoors stores.
So remember: Don’t look through the viewfinder of an unfiltered camera, or telescope or binoculars when it’s pointed at or near the sun, even if you’re wearing protective glasses.
See what libraries are doing
Libraries that will be handing out free eclipse-viewing glasses include the Boise Public Library main branch, libraries in Garden City, Eagle, Meridian (Silverstone Branch), Kuna, Nampa, Caldwell and Parma. Since supplies are limited, call ahead before you make the trip.
The four branches of the Ada Community Library will also distribute glasses. The Victory branch, 10664 W. Victory Road, will host a free eclipse program at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 17 and distribute free glasses to participants. Leftovers will be available to the public after the program but limited to six.
The Lake Hazel branch, 10489 Lake Hazel Road, will host a program during the eclipse and hand out free glasses. Details are still in the works. Check the website, adalib.org, closer to the date of the eclipse.
The Hidden Springs branch will also host a viewing event during the eclipse at the library and will give out glasses. The library is at 5868 W. Hidden Springs Drive. Check the website, adalib.org, closer to the date.
The Star Branch will host a live viewing party with free glasses at 11 a.m. at Hunter’s Creek Sports Park, 1500 N. Star Road in Star.
Here’s something post-eclipse at the Victory branch. The library will host a free screening of the “Eclipse Megamovie,” a high-definition, time-expanded video of the total eclipse, pieced together with images contributed by citizen scientists. 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 23.
Cool eclipse stuff: workshops, seminars, downloadables
The planetarium’s July 27 show (7 p.m.) will focus on stories and mythologies about the eclipse from cultures around the world. Reserve your tickets ($10 adults, $5 youth) online at collegeofidaho.edu.
The planetarium will also host four free programs to explain the eclipse as well as other objects in the August skies, 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 10; 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 11; 5:30 and 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 15. Reserve your space online at collegeofidaho.edu.
Reservations will be forfeited to walk-ins 10 minutes before the show is scheduled to begin.
Contact Kinga Britschgi at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 208-459-5211 with questions about reservations. The planetarium is located at the Boone Science Building near Jewett Auditorium at the corner of 20th Avenue and Fillmore Street in Caldwell.
The camera store will host a seminar where you will learn the best and safest ways to watch and photograph the eclipse. 11 a.m. Saturday, July 29, 1310 N. Orchard St. in Boise. The seminar is free, with free coffee. Seats on a first-come basis. Call 208-377-3686 for more information.
The Starnet website is offering a free eclipse guide download as well as a free webinar on safe eclipse viewing at 1 p.m. (Mountain Time) on Wednesday, Aug. 2. Find more information and register for the webinar at starnetlibraries.org.
Free stuff from NASA:
NASA’s website offers several cool free downloads, including state-by-state eclipse maps and a cool retro-style eclipse poster. Find it all at eclipse2017.nasa.gov
Learn more about the eclipse
▪ Find a list of the times the eclipse will affect various Idaho communities.
▪ For general eclipse information, visit eclipse2017.org.
▪ Find Idaho eclipse information: visitidaho.org/eclipse.
▪ Boise State Department of Physics: physics.boisestate.edu/eclipse.
▪ The Idaho Department of Commerce has information on how communities should be planning for the eclipse, along with a number of eclipse facts at commerce.idaho.gov/eclipse.