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  • How I Bought Fake Eclipse Glasses

    Published Aug. 16, 2017

    I put off buying eclipse glasses until the last minute. As I scrolled through page after page of sold-out products, I got worried. But before long I found a good price on a 12-pack of cardboard eclipse glasses.

    That deal was too good to be true. The glasses were fakes. The black-framed glasses on the right do not meet safety requirements. The white-framed glasses on the left are safe. Could you tell the difference?

    Light fixture seen through fake eclipse glasses
    A light fixture seen through fake eclipse glasses. If you can see anything other than the sun, your glasses are not safe for direct solar viewing.

    I made sure the glasses said they met the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard for looking directly at the sun. In the product picture, I could see the safety statement and the ISO logo on the frames. But when they arrived, it was obvious that they weren’t dark enough, even though they had the ISO safety information printed on them. I tried on a pair and looked at my desk lamp. I could clearly see the outline of the lightbulb. Real eclipse glasses will block out everything except the sun.

    If I had looked at the sun with these glasses, I could have done permanent damage to my eyes. A quick web search brought me to the manufacturer’s website, which has a big warning about how its glasses aren’t ISO-compliant. The manufacturer says it has stopped selling the glasses, but there are already a lot of them out there. And they’re not the only ones.

    The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Astronomical Society provide guidance on safe eclipse viewing. There also is a list of verified manufacturers and distributors of eclipse glasses. If I’d checked the list, I’d have known I wasn’t getting the real thing.

    If you can’t find trustworthy eclipse glasses in time, there are other safe ways to watch the eclipse.

    Eclipse Glasses ISO logo side-by-side real and fake glasses
    Fake (above) and real (below) eclipse glasses could both have an ISO logo printed on them. Make sure your solar viewer is genuine before you look at the sun.