Solar Eclipse Viewing Safety

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ROCKFORD, Ill (WIFR) -- People across the nation are anxiously awaiting the solar eclipse in just a little over two weeks from now however eye care experts are warning us that not all eclipse eye-wear protection is created equal.

A popular misconception is that regular sunglasses will shield our eyes from the suns powerful rays while viewing the eclipse. Sunglasses alone do not contain strong enough filters to limit the direct rays from the sun, instead special eclipse viewing glasses are required to ensure we don't permanently damage our vision.

During the eclipse, when the sun is mostly covered by the moon, it is still not safe to observe the eclipse with the naked eye. Dr. Kenneth Minarik of Northern Illinois Optical says significant vision damage can occur even with a small amount of sun being exposed. "When the moon is obstructing the sun people will have a little bit of a false confidence. They will be more likely to look up at it because they see that it's mostly covered, but the light that is coming around the edge of the moon is still very dangerous."

Special eclipse viewing glasses are widely available for free at several libraries and science centers across the Stateline. Another popular tool that most of us have that we can utilize to view the eclipse is our cell phone cameras. Simply open up your camera app, and place your cell phone between the sun and your eyes (with a big emphasis on covering your eyes).

If you are thinking of ordering a pair of eclipse glasses online, beware. Several counterfeits have recently been spotted that do not meet the safety standards and certification to be ISO-certified. The American Astronomical Society notes a increasing amount of unsafe solar eclipse glasses and viewers are being sold. Here's how to spot the unsafe glasses: If light from a normal household light-bulb penetrates through the glasses, they are not safe, only direct sunlight should be seen.
For a complete list of glasses that are approved as safe for eclipse viewing you can visit https://eclipse.aas.org/resources/solar-filters