Yes, you really need eclipse safety glasses to view the total solar eclipse

Posted at 5:33 PM, Aug 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-01 19:33:07-04

Some have spent months preparing where they'll watch the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, but many haven't considered how they'll safely view it. 

To not risk permanent eye damage, solar eclipse glasses are necessary. 

"Your retinas can get damaged by the sun's rays," College of Idaho Associate Professor of Physics Katie Devine said. "You may not actually even know it at the time it's happening. You may wake up the next morning and start seeing spots, so you can possible permanently damage your eyes by looking at a partial total eclipse." 

Those viewing from the Treasure Valley need to keep eclipse glasses on during the entire duration of the event, but those in the path of totality have a small window of time when they can safely remove their glasses.

"During totality is the only time that it's safe to look at the eclipse without safety wear," Devine said.

Devine said you'll know when you're in that safe zone when none of the sun is visible and your view is totally dark.

If you already have eclipse glasses, check to make sure they're dark enough and meet the American Astronomical Society's safety suggestions. Your glasses should be labeled "ISO 12312-2". 

"If you put your eyewear on and you can see anything through it, it's not dark enough," Devine said. "The only thing you should be able to see is the sun."

That means most of your homemade solutions, such as a pair of sunglasses, won't be enough to protect your eyes. 

"The thing about eclipse glasses is they not only block the visible light, which is the stuff you can see, but they also block ultraviolet light," Devine said. 

Parents can also make sure their children are protected by practicing safe viewing procedures. 

Devine says you should look away from the eclipse during totality to remove your glasses and look down again before putting them back on. That way, you won't be tempted to remove them before totality is achieved.