Feb 19, 2024 - Science

Solar eclipse glasses may be hard to find soon

Illustration of repeating solar glasses, with some missing.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

A total solar eclipse will be viewable in April but don't wait until then to buy glasses, because you might not find any.

Why it matters: The total eclipse will be visible in 13 states on April 8 and a partial in all others except Alaska and Hawaii, but viewing it without proper glasses could damage your vision.

What they're saying: "By mid-March 2024, we expect to start hearing reports about various sellers running out of stock," Richard Tresch Fienberg, a senior adviser at the American Astronomical Society told Axios. "It'll get worse the closer we get to April 8."

Flashback: "In 2017, we saw companies selling out during the last few weeks before the August 21st 'Great American' solar eclipse," Fienberg said.

Between the lines: To ensure safe viewing, you must wear eclipse glasses or viewers that meet international standard ISO 12312-2.

  • "Sunglasses, smoked glass, unfiltered telescopes or magnifiers and polarizing filters can transmit far more sunlight than is safe for our eyes and should not be used as substitutes," American Optometric Association's president Ronald L. Benner told Axios.

State of play: Experts warn eclipse viewers that counterfeit products are flooding the market and you may not be able to tell if glasses are a scam.

  • Viewers should inspect eclipse glasses or handheld viewers before use and discard them if torn, scratched or damaged.
  • A list of reputable manufacturers and authorized vendors can be found here.

The other side: The optometric association has yet to see any test reports that show unsafe eclipse glasses on the market, "whether manufactured in the U.S., Europe or China."

Yes, but: "What we have seen, though, is some Chinese eclipse glasses that have the name of a U.S. manufacturer printed on them," Benner said. "That's fraud, pure and simple, and we don't link to any companies we know to be selling such 'counterfeit' glasses, even if we have no reason to suspect that they are unsafe."

Threat level: If you do not use the correct glasses, common symptoms include loss of central vision, distorted vision and altered color vision.

  • "It can take a few hours to a few days after viewing the solar eclipse to realize the damage that has occurred. … All symptoms should be treated as urgent until viewed by a doctor of optometry," Benner said.
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