Testing eclipse sunglasses
August 17, 2017 5:34 AM   Subscribe

Purchased 'fake' eclipse sunglasses on Amazon. Amazon sent alert, and refunded my money. However it's hard to get hold of eclipse glasses now so soon to the eclipse. The seller claims they are 'ISO certified.' Is there any way to test this? The glasses are plastic, manufactured in China, and seller (who is replying to other Amazon purchasers and does not have english as a native language) does not make much sense.
posted by carter to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: How to make sure your eclipse glasses really work.

According to the AAS, you can't really check whether lenses are ISO-compliant without the proper equipment—so you use unapproved lenses at your own peril, no matter how carefully you test them at home.

But if you're just looking to double check glasses that are meant to be safe, put them on and make sure you can't see any light that's not as bright as the sun. Your smartphone LED flashlight will do the trick. For starters, pop your glasses on and look around. Can you see anything? If so, they're bogus.

If you're still very much in the dark, move on to testing with an LED flashlight. I turned my phone's flashlight on full blast and sheepishly angled it towards my (lens-protected) eyes. All I could see were a couple of dim little dots, even when I brought the light right up against my glasses. I was so impressed that I took the glasses off to compare just how bright the light was without a filter. Do not do this, as it negates the entire purpose of this article.

We can't recommend that you use anything but certified glasses from a reputable seller. But if you can shine an LED in your face and barely see a single pinprick of dim light, your glasses are probable ready to handle an eclipse.

You can always make and use a pinhole camera.
posted by NoraCharles at 5:40 AM on August 17, 2017 [7 favorites]

Best answer: The AAS eclipse page on testing & ISO certification is pretty comprehensive.
posted by zamboni at 5:41 AM on August 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks both! They are super dim, and the LED flashlight barely makes it through as an orange/brown dot. Still wary though.
posted by carter at 5:52 AM on August 17, 2017

Best answer: I would not use any eye protection that was not from a reputable manufacturer. Yes, the total eclipse is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but you're going to need your vision every day for the rest of your life. And if you're not in the path of totality, anyway, there will be another partial eclipse that you can catch. (I'm an astronomer, and, sure, what the heck, I am your astronomer.)
posted by BrashTech at 6:22 AM on August 17, 2017 [26 favorites]

I bought (what I think are) the same glasses you bought and have thrown them in the trash. I then went and bought glasses from a reputable vendor listed on the AAS's page.

The short answer is that they are probably OK, but the manufacturer did not at all go through the required safety certifications, but printed them with the ISO certification labels. So, while they are probably OK, no independent organization has actually tested them. That is sketchy enough that I really wouldn't mess with them; your vision is not worth it.

If you want to get glasses now, I would recommend:

1. Check your local public library. Our local library in our small village got 300 pairs.
2. If you're near any colleges or universities with an Astronomy or Physics department, check with them (if, by some odd chance, you happen to be in SW Vermont, I've got you covered).
3. Check the "Retail Locations" section of this AAS page for places you might still be able to find them.
4. If there are any regional science centers near you, call them.
posted by Betelgeuse at 7:19 AM on August 17, 2017

Your local library probably does NOT have any left. But if you call to check please be nice! Your library staff have been fielding these calls all week.
posted by exceptinsects at 12:24 PM on August 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Some libraries still have eclipse glasses. My library is only going to give them out this weekend. Some libraries will give them out on Monday.
posted by SillyEvelina at 2:54 PM on August 18, 2017

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