The Solar Eclipse - Safe Viewing for Families

No matter where you live in the USA, August 21, 2017 is a day that will go down in history. Much of the country will be witness to a 94 minute scientific wonder as the Solar Eclipse sweeps across the states. While most of us will only see a partial eclipse, some locations will be able to observe a total eclipse. Young and old alike will enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience, but we all need to be aware of how to enjoy it safely as a family.

You may have read about or seen photos of people using a toilet-paper tube with a pin hole to view an eclipse or just wearing ordinary sunglasses, but experts warn that we all need to take the sun’s intense rays more seriously than that. The eye is not like other parts of the body:  damage can be caused from looking at the sun without a bit of pain, so you won’t even know it.  It only takes a few seconds to cause irreparable damage to your eye and it is just not worth risking that with anything less than the proper equipment.

The only safe way to view the eclipse is to use glasses that are specifically designed for this purpose. Fortunately, they are cheap and are readily available online and at many stores. These glasses don’t have to be anything fancy, (cardboard is just as good as plastic), they just need to be certified as safe. Any product you purchase should labeled with the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard.

I found these certified glasses on Amazon that were very reasonably priced for a pack of 4, although they are no longer available. Things are selling quickly, so I've looked up a few other options for you.

Cardboard versions that work just as well, and these are for a set of 3 certified glasses.

Did you know that it is NOT safe to look through the lens of a camera, telescope or binoculars while simply wearing certified glasses?  I had no idea, but apparently, these lens focus the sun's harmful rays so intensely that they need their own covering. I am thinking I might order one of these filters for my camera.

Now that you know the dangers, should you even let your children view the eclipse?  

ABSOLUTELY!  This could be a once-in-a-lifetime event for them and as long as you are prepared, there is no reason not to share the experience!!  Discuss with them the importance of not looking directly at the sun unless wearing the proper glasses, and set a good example by doing the same. Watch your children closely to be sure that they do not take off the glasses, even if that means you get to see a bit less of the eclipse. 

There are lots of fun ways you can celebrate the eclipse! My son-in-law has a birthday in August so we are gifting him with all sorts of fun, Solar-Eclipse related gifts. You can check out my personal blog here to see a post featuring Eclipse-friendly snacks and goodies.

Wherever you are on August 21, take the time to look up---with glasses on---and make some memories with your child. In the next few days, I will be posting some fun activities you can do with your child, but in the meantime, here's a chart from the American Academy of Ophthalmology which illustrates some safe ways to enjoy the experience.