Solar eclipse glasses: why you need them, where to get them and how to make them

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The total solar eclipse is on August 21. It's a once in a lifetime event that you don't want to miss, especially if you are living in the Carolinas. But you may be asking yourself, "how do I view the eclipse safely?,"do I need a pair of glasses to view the eclipse?," "what happens if I don't have glasses?" Not to worry, we've got you covered.

First of all, glasses are a must!

It’s unsafe to look directly at the sun without solar glasses as the eclipse is taking place. You'll want to make sure your eclipse glasses meet the following criteria:

  • Should be certified with a designated ISO 12312-2 international standard
  • Have the manufacturer’s name and address printed somewhere on the product
  • Do Not use if they are older than three years, or have scratched/wrinkled lenses
  • Do Not use homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses. Even the very dark glasses are not safe for looking directly at the Sun

RELATED: 5 things to know about the total solar eclipse

When is it okay to look?

You can remove the glasses during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse (“totality”). The total phase is achieved when the moon entirely blocks the sun’s bright face. If you are not in the narrow path of totality, you will need to wear them through the entire event.

RELATED: What Carolinians can expect to see during the eclipse

There are a few tips you need to know about using your solar glasses during this event. To put them on you will want to turn away from the sun, stand still, and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer. When you are finished watching the eclipse, make sure to look away from the sun before removing your filters. Do not look at the sun without some kind of protection. Don't worry if you are unable to get eclipse glasses or solar viewer, because there are other alternative methods to viewing the total eclipse.

Where to get glasses?

The good news is solar eclipse glasses can be found for free or purchased at a number of locations. The South Carolina State Museum in Columbia, SC will be distributing solar eclipse viewing glasses with the purchase of museum general admission starting Aug. 1. 

The University of South Carolina will be has a number of eclipse events planned and may have glasses on hand. Not planning on attending a viewing party? No problem. Solar eclipse viewing glasses are being sold at stores likes Lowe's and Walmart. Even better, they are relatively inexpensive. Just make sure the glasses meet the criteria stated above. You can also order glasses through Amazon or other online retailers. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you plan on looking through a telescope or camera, you will need a solar filter for your lens.

How to make a pair of solar glasses

Looking for a craft to do with the kids? You could always make your own solar eclipse viewing glasses. Here's what you will need:

  • A large piece of poster board or card stock
  • A template for your glasses (draw an outline or print out a template)
  • A solar filter
  • A roll of blue painter’s tape
  • Scissors
  • A pen

Have a pair of old 3D glasses handy? You can actually skip the poster board and template. Make sure your solar filter meets the criteria. Once you have all your materials, you will want to use your template to cut out a glasses frame from the poster board. If you're using the 3D glasses, all you have to do is pop out the lenses.

Once your frame is ready, cut the solar film so that it completely covers the eye holes on the glasses. This is important: make sure not to puncture or scratch the film. Any damage to the film can diminish its protective quality.

Additional resource on how to make a pair of glasses

Once the film is in place, secure it to you frames with the painter's tape. Attach the earpiece and you are good for a test run. Head into a dark room and have a friend or family member shine a flashlight in your direction. If any of the light comes through, you have a leak. Follow the above steps again and you should be good to go!