The Eclipse and Ultra-“Violent” Light

The solar eclipse is almost here! August 21, 2017 marks the first time in nearly 100 years that there has been a coast-to-coast solar eclipse. This special occasion has caused quite a commotion across the county. Businesses and schools are closing for the day. Government offices and courts are closing. Economists say that the total solar eclipse, which will last only 2 minutes, will result in a $700 million loss of productivity.

So what makes this event so special?

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes directly between the Earth and the sun. This is extremely rare. The last total solar eclipse to touch the United States was in 1979. The odds that a solar eclipse occurs where a person lives is once every 375 years. In fact, the 2017 eclipse may be the most viewed solar eclipse in history!

During the solar eclipse, the moon and the sun appear to be about the same size in the sky. The sun is slightly larger than the moon. Though most of the sun’s visible rays will be blocked by the moon, the ultraviolet light emitted from the sun is enough to hurt your eyes in seconds.

Looking at the sun without protection during the eclipse won’t make you go blind immediately. However, it can cause serious damage to your retinas. The sun’s rays can cause a condition called solar retinopathy. The focused light pierces into your eyes and harms your retinas, and leaves you seeing spots. This condition may last for hours, days, weeks, months, or years.

Protect Yourself During the Eclipse!

Do you have your pair of solar eclipse glasses? It seems like everywhere, from optometrists to city libraries have been handing out specially-made solar eclipse glasses.

These glasses are specially made so that you cannot see anything through the lenses except for the sun. The technology is similar to polarized lenses in sunglasses. Polarized lenses appear to have a dark tint, and allow only a certain percentage of light through the lens. Tinted vehicle windows work the same way. The tinted film used in car windows is also polarized.

But sunglasses won’t protect your eyes during the eclipse.

Solar eclipse glasses may remind you of the flimsy red and blue 3D glasses from the 1980s and 1990s. But the lenses used in the solar eclipse shades are no joke. The lenses are much more polarized than your sunglasses. In fact, they block out almost 100% of all harmful ultraviolet light, and most visible light. If you put on a pair of eclipse glasses, the only thing you should be able to see is the sun.

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Counterfeit Concerns with Eclipse Glasses

This once-in-a-lifetime event has also become an opportunity for fraudsters. There are reports that many pairs of glasses being sold on Amazon and other online retailers are counterfeit glasses that will cause eye damage if users look into the sun. Amazon has done its best to block vendors selling poor-quality or counterfeit glasses. Amazon has even recalled these glasses, leaving many people scrambling to find replacements.

Counterfeit glasses have also nearly ruined some school events. The Eudora, Kansas school district was almost forced to cancel its eclipse-viewing plans because the glasses purchased for the event were not considered safe.

So how can you tell if your eclipse glasses are genuine?

The American Astronomical Society has put together a list of vendors that sell genuine glasses. Compare the brand of glasses to the pair you have. This list is not exhaustive, and some glasses that are authentic may be sold under different names.

Consider where you obtained your pair of eclipse glasses. Free pairs given away from reputable sources, such as optometrists and city government are most likely genuine pairs. Glasses purchased from science products companies, such as Carolina Biological Supply Company, are sure to be genuine glasses.

All genuine glasses meet the ISO, or international safety standard, for safely viewing the eclipse. Look for the ISO stamp on a genuine pair of glasses.

So what if your eclipse glasses are fakes? Can you sue?

Probably not. If you purchased you glasses from an online vendor, you probably agreed to a liability waiver when you purchased the glasses that limited your recovery to the price you paid for the glasses.  Other eclipse glasses have a liability waiver printed on the inside of the glasses like the photo above.

Make sure that your glasses are safe by ensuring that you can only see the sun through the lenses. Be careful, and enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience!

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