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How to View the Solar Eclipse Safely

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A total solar eclipse is approaching on Monday, April 8, 2024. A solar eclipse is a wonderful phenomenon to witness, but the importance of using proper eye protection during an eclipse cannot be overstated.

Where Can I Watch the Solar Eclipse?

The path of totality, where the moon completely blocks the sun for a few minutes, is the most breathtaking place to witness a solar eclipse. For the 2024 eclipse, the path of totality over the United States begins in Texas and proceeds northeast before ending in Maine.

Iowa is not in the path of totality for the 2024 eclipse, but most of central Iowa will still see about 80 to 85 percent of totality. With proper eye protection (and clear skies), you can see the moon partially block the sun.

Why is Eye Safety Crucial During a Solar Eclipse?

"Looking directly at the sun during the eclipse without the proper filters will damage your eyes," says Dr. Linda Lehman, Ophthalmologist at McFarland Clinic. She says special-purpose solar filters, like eclipse glasses or handheld solar viewers, are designed to protect your eyes by blocking the harmful rays of the sun.

What Eye Protection Should You Use for an Eclipse?

Dr. Lehman says the key to safe eclipse viewing is using the right kind of eye protection. Eclipse glasses or solar viewers should have an ISO 12312-2 certification label. This certification means the product meets stringent international safety standards for directly viewing the sun.

Where to Find Eclipse Glasses?

Given the high demand for eclipse glasses, sourcing them can be challenging. McFarland Clinic's Duff Avenue Eye Center in Ames has a limited supply of certified eclipse glasses on sale for $2 each. We recommend calling in advance at 515-239-4774 to ensure supplies are in stock.

If buying online, be wary of sellers claiming to offer eye protection that could be counterfeit. The American Astronomical Society (AAS) offers a list of reputable manufacturers and vendors. Early preparation is key to ensure you have your protective eyewear ready for the big day, avoiding any last-minute scramble.

Are There Safe Viewing Alternatives for a Solar Eclipse?

If you can't get your hands on eclipse glasses, there are still safe ways to enjoy the eclipse. Pinhole projectors, for example, offer a simple and effective method to project an image of the sun onto a surface.

Pinhole projection does not mean looking at the sun through a pinhole. Rather, you project sunlight through the hole onto a surface, observing the eclipse indirectly without any risk to your eyes. This can often done with homemade projectors, or you can even use common household objects or interlace your fingers. The American Astronomical Society has more information about pinhole projection.

More Information

For more information about the eclipse and how to view it safely, check these resources:

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