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Where To Get Free Solar Eclipse Glasses For April’s Event

Nikos Spyridonos and his daughter Zoe try out eclipse glasses ahead of the total solar eclipse in … [+] Charleston, South Carolina, on August 20, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

Eclipse glasses are in short supply across North America, where on Monday, April 8, a total solar eclipse will be visible from within a narrow path of totality through parts of northwest Mexico, 15 U.S. states, and southeastern Canada. Everyone on the continent will see the partial phases of the eclipse, which must be viewed directly only through solar eclipse glasses or a handheld solar viewer.

Reuse And Recycle

If you still have some leftover from the last solar eclipse in North America last October 14—or even from 2017’s “Great American Eclipse”—you can easily reuse them as long as they are not damaged by punctures or tears. “If your glasses say ‘discard after three years,’ ignore it—that’s bogus,” said Dr. Rick Fienberg, Project Manager of the AAS Solar Eclipse Task Force at the American Astronomical Society, in an interview.

However, if you have no eclipse glasses, it’s time to get some for you and your family because demand is already skyrocketing. Typically, solar eclipse glasses are available widely online and in local stores and cost about $3 each (and rising). If you purchase them, make sure the company or brand is on the American Astronomical Society’s list of Suppliers of Safe Solar Filters & Viewers that comply with the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard.

Glasses Giveaways

However, there are several places you might be able to get them for free—if you know who to ask. “There are thousands of groups giving away glasses,” said Fienberg. “There are 13,000 libraries in the country giving away glasses, but they won’t have thousands each,” he said about the Solar Eclipse Activities for Libraries project. It’s giving out 5 million solar viewing glasses to 13,000 public libraries across the U.S. It’s the largest single eclipse outreach effort in the U.S., but do not expect your local library to have any—it may not be involved in the scheme. Don’t drive across town specifically to ask a library for free eclipse glasses unless it is on this interactive map—they’ll most likely have been deluged with requests already. “The most any library got was 2,000, so they may not have any by now,” said Fienberg. That’s OK because there are many other sources of free and affordable eclipse glasses.

Eclipse Events And Outreach

“Try science museums, planetariums and your local amateur astronomy club,” said Fienberg, who advises Sky & Telescope magazine’s Astronomy Clubs & Organizations Near Me as a good place to start. “Check with your local high schools and your local college astronomy department—there are a lot of places that are going to be having eclipse events, and they’re all going to have glasses—they won’t all be free, but many will be,” said Fienberg.

Why You Don’t Need Free Eclipse Glasses

Although there are many ways to get them for free, solar eclipse glasses are not expensive. “They cost about the same as a pack of mints,” said Fienberg. “I don’t believe there’s anybody interested in looking at the eclipse that can’t either find a free pair or afford to buy a pair.” That may change as the laws of supply and demand kick-in. “Right now, they cost $2 or $3 each; maybe that will reach $5 or $10 right before the eclipse, but a family of four only needs one pair,” said Fienberg. After all, solar eclipse glasses are not for intently looking at the sun for the 2.5 hours of the entire eclipse. Having a quick look at the eclipse’s progress now and then is more than enough—they’re made of cardboard and are not designed to be worn for more than a few seconds or minutes at a time.

Here’s what you should NEVER use to look at the sun at any time, including the partial phases of a solar eclipse: sunglasses, two pairs of sunglasses, welder’s glass (aside from grade 14), smoked glass, exposed film, medical x-rays, DVDs and homemade filters. Choose certified safe ISO-certified eclipse glasses and viewers only.

For the latest on all aspects of April 8’s total solar eclipse in North America, check my main feed for new articles each day.

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.

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