OUTDOORS + RECREATION

Don’t stare at the solar eclipse without protection

Oct 5, 2023, 1:00 PM

Boy tries out his new eclipse glasses he just bought from Clark Planetarium in preparation for the ...

Boy tries out his new eclipse glasses he just bought from Clark Planetarium in preparation for the total solar eclipse in 2017. (Scott G Winterton/ Deseret News)

(Scott G Winterton/ Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Looking at the sun is never a good idea. It’s just one of those things that you don’t do. Many people forget to follow the safety rules during a solar eclipse, damaging their eyes.

The only exception is during the total solar eclipse phase, where the moon completely blocks the sun. This phase, known as totality, is only visible in total solar eclipses, not annular or partial solar eclipses.

It just so happens that Utah is in the path of an annular solar eclipse passing by on Oct. 14.

Annular or partial solar eclipses could potentially be more harmful as viewers could look at the sun, thinking it’s okay, and be hurt by the sun’s rays.

Safe ways to view the annular solar eclipse

How do you prevent damage to your eyes? Wear the right eye protection. 

Viewers of the eclipse have many options to view the eclipse, including eclipse glasses or even an eclipse projector. 

NASA.gov says you can create your own eclipse projector using a cardboard box, a white sheet of paper, tape, scissors, and aluminum foil.

Viewers should position the box with the Sun behind them so that sunlight can pass through a pinhole in aluminum foil covering a hole on one side of the box. This will project a crescent Sun onto a white sheet of paper taped to the inside of the box during partial phases of a solar eclipse.

To view the projected image, look through another hole cut into the box.

For those who want to wear eclipse glasses, there are a few things to remember; the first is to plan ahead. Many popular viewing locations will include national parks. Bryce Canyon is one such place. However, these glasses may not be available for purchase. Bryce Canyon said on its website that the glasses must be purchased by the Oct. 5 to guarantee that customers get them on time.

The good thing is that there are plenty of ways to get them. A quick Amazon purchase away, and you’d be able to get the eclipse glasses you need to view the eclipse safely.

They’re relatively inexpensive, too. Most packs put them at less than two dollars a pair.

Be careful when you buy them that they are the right ones. NASA says:

“When watching a partial or annular solar eclipse directly with your eyes, you must look through safe solar viewing glasses (“eclipse glasses”) or a safe handheld solar viewer at all times. Eclipse glasses are NOT regular sunglasses; no matter how dark, they are unsafe for viewing the Sun. Safe solar viewers are thousands of times darker and should comply with the ISO 12312-2 international standard. NASA does not approve any particular brand of solar viewers.”

Unsafe ways to view the annular eclipse

Unsafe methods for viewing the annular solar eclipse include:

  • ordinary sunglasses
  • multiple pairs of sunglasses
  • neutral density or polarizing filters (for camera lenses)
  • smoked glass
  • photographic or X-ray film
  • “space blankets”
  • potato-chip bags
  • DVDs.

Viewers should void any other methods of viewing eclipses that are thought to be safe for direct solar viewing other than through solar eclipse glasses.

To safely observe the eclipse, use specially designed solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses.” Homemade filters and regular sunglasses, even very dark ones, are unsuitable for solar observation.

Some may think that they can use the same glasses they used to view the total solar eclipse that passed by Utah in 2017. This might not be the best idea. 

NASA says not to use eclipse glasses older than three years or those with scratches or holes.

This year’s solar eclipse is annular, making it crucial to use protective glasses everywhere. Except in the direct path, where the “ring of fire” is visible, most locations will experience only a partial eclipse. Always wear protective glasses, regardless of location, to safeguard your eyes.

This year’s eclipse

  • This year is an annular eclipse, so there is no place to view the eclipse where glasses are not strongly recommended. 
  • A partial eclipse will be visible in most places other than the direct path, so there won’t be a “ring of fire” in places other than the direct path. 
  • This is a reminder that you should always wear protective glasses regardless of where you are. 
  • Clark Planetarium is hosting an Eclipse Extravaganza at the Olympic Legacy Plaza at The Gateway on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023, from 9 a.m. until noon. The public can view the eclipse and enjoy free eclipse-themed games and activities.

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Don’t stare at the solar eclipse without protection