Where to get solar eclipse glasses and how to know if they work

Don’t miss it: In the afternoon of April 8, a total solar eclipse will travel across the country, with some experts describing the phenomenon as “the greatest solar eclipse across the U.S. in our lifetime.”

According to NASA, the eclipse will begin around 1 p.m. CT. The shadow of the moon will start out moving slow, across Texas, up through Arkansas and then southeastern Missouri, southern Illinois and into Indianapolis. From there, it will travel through Ohio and up to the northeast, with 13 states in total appearing in the eclipse’s path of totality.

Places in the path of totality, like Carbondale — which was also in the eclipse’s path of totality in 2017 — will see the moon will briefly cover the sun entirely.

In Chicago, around 94 or 95 percent of the eclipse will be visible.

“Even though it’s a partial eclipse over Chicago, the skies are still going to get darker, with more than 90% of the sun getting covered,” NBC 5 Meteorologist Kevin Jeanes said. “You’ll notice the crescent shape of the sun in all of the shadows and through your phone camera lens.  It feels ominous but it’s a very exciting moment.”

According to the NBC 5 Storm Team, there’s a good chance early morning clouds will clear Monday, making the partial eclipse visible in Chicago. However, since the region is not in the eclipse’s path of totality, glasses will be needed at all times to safely view it.

“You must have glasses from Chicago, or you can make a pin hole box to view it,” Jeanes said. “That’s because it’s not safe to look at from a vantage point outside the path of totality. We cannot look at the sun when not its the total eclipse.”

How to know if your solar eclipse glasses work

According to the Adler Planetarium, viewing the solar eclipse without proper eyewear can result in irreversible eye damage within seconds, and as your eyes lack the nerve endings to register pain as it’s occurring, it’ll be too late by the time you know.

Regular sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe to view the eclipse.

Outside of eclipse glasses, the following options described by the Illinois Department of Transportation also offer a safe way to see the event.

  • Solar filters: If you want to use a telescope, binoculars or camera, do not use them unprotected even if you have safe eclipse glasses. Consult the manufacturer for a proper filter to attach to your device.
  • Pinhole viewer: This is a simple, inexpensive way to indirectly view the eclipse. Just take two sheets of white paper (card stock is best) and poke a hole in the middle of one sheet. With your back to the sun, hold the sheet with the hole over the other sheet and adjust them until you see a dot of light. That’s the sun! As the moon travels across the sun, a crescent will appear. 

With the danger of irreversible eye damage present in the event of viewing the eclipse unprotected, it’s critical to ensure that the solar eclipse glasses used are not counterfeit.

But there’s no real way to detect real glasses versus counterfeit ones just by looking at them.

Where to find approved solar eclipse glasses

Experts suggest purchasing solar eclipse glasses through suppliers deemed “safe” by the American Astronomical Society.

The society’s list offers links to “selected suppliers of solar viewers and filters that you can be confident are safe when used properly.”

“These include companies and organizations with which members of the AAS Solar Eclipse Task Force have had good experience as well as other companies and organizations that have demonstrated to our satisfaction that the products they’re selling meet the safety requirements of the ISO 12312-2 international standard,” the list states.

The society notes, however, that its list is not exhaustive, and glasses not listed on the site could still be safe. They do not recommend using Amazon, eBay, Temu or other online marketplaces to find lowest-priced options.

Before you buy a solar viewer or filter online, we recommend that you make sure that (1) the seller is identified on the site and (2) the seller is listed on this page,” the society states.

Can you use your phone, or binoculars?

According to Nichols, using your phone to capture the solar eclipse could also be damaging.

“Don’t just point your phone at the sun either because you’ll fry your phone camera, so just don’t do that either,” she said.

She noted, however, that some companies make filters or covers for phone camera lenses to safely capture a solar eclipse.

NASA said viewers should not use solar glasses while trying to view the eclipse through a phone or camera lense.

“Do NOT look at the Sun through a camera lens, telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while wearing eclipse glasses or using a handheld solar viewer — the concentrated solar rays will burn through the filter and cause serious eye injury,” the agency said.

However, those who use a proper filter on their phone or camera lense should be able to safely view the eclipse through those devices.