natural wonders

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 01: In this photo illustration, eclipse glasses from Warby Parker are see...
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Where To Get Last-Minute Eclipse Glasses

A solar eclipse is coming to the US on April 8 and people are getting excited to view it. Here's where you can get last-minute eclipse glasses.

On Monday, April 8 Americans will have the opportunity to witness a total solar eclipse for the first time in almost seven years. Excitement is bubbling as the big day approaches, but scientists warn that anyone hoping to catch the cosmic event will need adequate eye protection. So for those among us who haven’t been as proactive as we could be, here’s where to get last-minute eclipse glasses. Because yes, you really do need them.

Where can you see the solar eclipse?

For those of you who slept through that day in science class, a solar eclipse is when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, blocking the Sun’s light. All throughout the contiguous United States (sorry Alaska and Hawaii), depending on where you live, you’ll get to witness it. Most Americans will only get to see a partial eclipse, which is still pretty impressive, but lucky folks in the path of totality (which includes parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Michigan, and Maine) will enjoy basking in a total eclipse, which will make it look like dawn or dusk in the middle of the day.

This will be the last solar eclipse that will be visible in the United States until 2044 and the last that will be seen coast to coast until 2045.

Why do you need eclipse glasses?

To put it simply: because you’re still going to be looking directly into the sun. Normally, the brightness of the center of our galaxy prohibits us from looking at it for long enough to hurt us — we can’t help but blink. (It is, however, still extremely possible to hurt your eyes by looking directly at the sun on an ordinary day so: don’t.) During an eclipse, however, the shadow that obscures part or all of the sun makes it physically easier to do so. But the danger remains. Ultraviolet (UV) light still enters the eye during an eclipse, damaging the retina (the light sensitive tissue lining the inner surface of the eye) and ultimately the rod and cone photoreceptors that allow us to see. This damage can happen in a matter of a few seconds of staring directly at the sun.

And no, sunglasses alone are not enough.

Where can you get eclipse glasses?

There are two reasons you might want to steer clear of online retailers. One reason is that there’s probably no great guarantee you’ll receive your specs on time to watch the eclipse. (The other reason we’ll get to in a minute.) Fortunately, because of the unique and exciting nature of a solar eclipse, lots of organizations and companies are offering free eclipse glasses while supplies last.

Your local library

As a general rule, before you buy anything, I strongly suggest first checking your local library, which often offers way more than books. My local library, for example, like many throughout the country, has been handing out eclipse glasses all week.

A local museum or science center

Planetariums, museums, observatories, science centers, even wildlife centers are joining in the national eclipse party and some are even offering free eclipse glasses.

Warby Parker

The glasses retailer is offering special eclipse glasses for free at its stores through April 8 while supplies last.

If you missed out on the free glasses, you can still buy them at the following retailers...

The American Astrological Society (AAS) has put together an excellent list of the many retailers who will be selling eclipse glasses that will keep your peepers peeping for years to come.

  • Walmart
  • Cracker Barrel
  • Kroger
  • Menards
  • Buc-ee's
  • Wegmans
  • H-E-B
  • 7 Eleven
  • Staples
  • Lowes
  • Meijer

Which brings us to our second reason for not ordering glasses online:

The American Astrological Society warns against counterfeit eclipse glasses

Plenty of less-than-scrupulous companies will be hawking inadequate eclipse glasses via major online retailers like Amazon and Temu. While many of the products you can get online could be adequate and up to snuff (the AAS has a long list of reputable online retailers) it’s hard to know for sure when buying through a third party. There is an accreditation for eclipse glasses — ISO 12312-2 standard — but unfortunately, manufacturers can (and do!) put that verbiage on without actually meeting the standards. Some newly-identified counterfeits are indistinguishable from genuine products.

“There’s no way to tell just by looking at them whether eclipse glasses are genuinely safe,” cautions says Rick Fienberg, Project Manager of the AAS Solar Eclipse Task Force in a press release, “but it’s easy to tell if they are not safe.”

How to see if your solar eclipse glasses are safe or unsafe

Fienberg recommends trying out your specs prior to April 8 indoors. Aside from very bright lights (which should even then appear very faint), you shouldn’t be able to see anything. If you can see anything else — a picture on the wall, a couch, etc — your glasses aren’t dark enough to safely observe the eclipse.

Once your glasses pass the indoor test, try them outside on a sunny day. You still shouldn’t be able to see anything except for the Sun’s reflection on a shiny surface. Again, even this will be very faint.

“If your glasses pass that test too, glance at the Sun through them for less than a second,” the press release advises. “You should see a sharp-edged, round disk (the Sun’s visible “face”) that’s comfortably bright. Depending on the type of filter in the glasses, the Sun may appear white, bluish white, yellow, or orange.”

If the glasses pass all three tests, they’re probably safe. Out of an abundance of caution, you probably should view the eclipse for no more than 2 or 3 seconds every 5 minutes or so.

“Staring at a partial solar eclipse for more than a few seconds at a time, even through perfectly safe solar viewers, isn’t much fun anyway,” says Fienberg. “It’s almost impossible to detect the Moon’s motion across the Sun in real time except with magnification, and you must never look through magnifying optics while wearing eclipse glasses.”

If all else fails, you can make your own eclipse cereal box viewer

Hey, it’s probably how we watched eclipses when we were kids, and we all had a good time. NASA itself has instructions on making this tried and true device on its website.