There’s good news for those raring to experience the total solar eclipse in August without damaging the eyes.

U.S. public libraries will be distributing more than 2 million pairs of free eclipse glasses for the celestial event that will be sweeping over the nation on Aug. 21. The glasses will come from an outreach program from the Space Science Institute (SSI).

Special Glasses For The Great American Eclipse

Astronomers and skywatchers are about to tune their telescopes to witness the Great American Eclipse that will occur for several hours in states from the Southeast and passing across the Mountain West before proceeding to the Pacific Northwest. It is expected to pass over the country along a stretch of land from Oregon to South Carolina.

Neighboring states will get a partial eclipse depending on their arc length from the path of the phenomenon, which is deemed the first incidence of totality in the 48 states since Feb. 26, 1979. It will also be the first total eclipse in the central United States since June 8, 1918.

Amid excitement building up, it’s crucial to note that looking up at the sun, even while it’s partially hidden by the moon, can lead to serious eye damage. Thus, skywatchers will be provided solar-viewing glasses by some 4,800 library organizations as part of an outreach program funded by a Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation grant to the nonprofit science group SSI.

“The Moore Foundation is pleased to help two million eyes enjoy and understand this astronomical spectacle with astronomical spectacles,” said Moore Foundation’s chief program office for science Dr. Robert Kirshner in a statement.

In addition to the glasses, registered groups will also receive an informational booklet on the event, which includes details on viewing events, how to safely view the eclipse, and how to do public outreach programs about it.

Project director Paul Dusenbery dubbed it a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for the country’s libraries and communities to work together, citing organizations such as NASA, the American Astronomical Society, and the National Science Foundation working toward promoting safe eclipse viewing.

A memo released by NASA and five other organizations showed four manufacturers of solar eclipse glasses as well as handheld solar viewers certified to meet international standards, namely American Paper Optics, Rainbow Symphony, Thousand Oaks Optical, and TSE 17.

While applications to get the free glasses have already closed, educators and libraries can still get them at discounted prices from American Paper Optics.

Tips For Safe Solar Viewing

It takes due diligence to best experience the eclipse, including learning the locations that could throw the least viewing obstacles, such as bad weather or a thick veil of clouds. Here are our tips for choosing the best location and other considerations.

Note, too, that the actual totality of the eclipse lasts less than three minutes. While it’s safe to remove one’s glasses during the totality, it’s important to put them back on before the sunlight starts to peek through the side of the moon again.

Avoid looking at the eclipse from unfiltered telescopes, binoculars, and glasses, because concentrated solar rays may affect the filter and damage the eyes.

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