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Fake solar eclipse glasses can damage your eyes — don't be duped, these options are the real deal

Want to check out the upcoming astronomical action? Protecting your vision is a must. But since knock-offs are inevitable, you need to choose carefully.

solar eclipse glasses
Turn around, bright eyes: A total eclipse requires total protection: These will help you safely check out this very very special event.

You've probably heard the buzz: A solar eclipse will be visible from the U.S. on the afternoon of Monday, April 8, and now's the time to prepare. Solar eclipses happen up to five times a year, according to NASA. However, where you're located dictates whether you can get in on the astronomical action. While everyone in the lower 48 states will be able to see at least a partial eclipse, folks in several states will be treated to something much more dramatic: totality, when the moon completely blocks the sun (for more on the eclipse and what you'll see in your region, read our full eclipse guide.)

A total solar eclipse is a big deal, and it's understandable to want to get in on the spectacle. But you've probably heard that staring at the sun can do serious damage to your eyes — and you heard right. "It is not good to look directly at the sun at any time," said Aaron Zimmerman, a clinical professor at Ohio State University's College of Optometry. "The sun is so bright that permanent damage to the retina — the back of the eye — can occur if viewed for too long. And too long can be seconds in duration."

Your eyes can recover from very short exposures to the sun (like, less than a few seconds), Zimmerman said. But short glimpses of the sun can also add up. "With eclipses lasting two and half hours, a few glimpses may add up to a significant amount of exposure," he said. And "there is no known cure for eclipse-related vision loss."

The good news: You don't have to sit back and twiddle your thumbs while this impressive event is happening above you. Special solar eclipse glasses allow you to check out the action safely. But since knock-offs are inevitable and everywhere, you need to choose carefully.

What are solar eclipse glasses?

Solar eclipse glasses block all but a tiny fraction of the sun’s UV, visible, and infrared light, letting through only a safe amount that produces a comfortably bright view, said Richard Tresch Fienberg, project manager at American Astronomical Society Solar Eclipse Task Force and co-author of Astronomy For Dummies.

"Typically, solar filters let through somewhere between about one part in 100,000 — that’s 0.001% — and one part in 2 million of the sun's visible light, producing a solar image that’s only about as bright as a full moon," Feinberg said. "Eclipse glasses are at least 1,000 times darker than even the darkest ordinary sunglasses."

How to find safe solar eclipse glasses

Your vision is not something you want to mess with, which is why it's so important to do your homework. "Safe solar viewers are those that comply with the ISO 12312-2 international standard for filters for direct observation of the sun," Fienberg said.

The only way to truly know if glasses comply with the standard is to have them tested by an accredited lab, but "there are very few labs accredited to test for compliance with ISO 12312-2," Feinberg said. His organization has put together a list of glasses and viewers that meet this standard.

"If you have eclipse glasses that are safe — that is, that comply with the ISO 12312-2 standard — then you can look through them for as long as you want without risk to your eyes," Feinberg said. "But, practically speaking, the best way to watch the progress of a partial solar eclipse, or the partial phases of a total solar eclipse, is to take a brief look every few minutes." The moon moves so slowly across the sun that looking at the eclipse the whole time isn't all that exciting, he said.

Zimmerman recommended cross-referencing any solar eclipse glasses that you're considering with the AAS Solar Eclipse Task Force list to make sure they're from a reputable company. This is important, since there are already companies selling glasses online that claim to be certified, but aren't. "The eclipse glasses should all have International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 12312-2 labeling somewhere on the glasses. Make sure to find that label," Zimmerman said.

Overwhelmed? Don't be. Here are a few options that meet that all-important safety standard.

Soluna's glasses are made in the U.S. by American Paper Optics and are recognized as ISO-compliant by the American Astronomical Society. The glasses have scratch-resistant silver polymer lenses and clearly state that they meet ISO standards. 

$15 at Amazon

MKs solar specs come in a 10-pack, so you can pass them out to family and friends. The inside of the glasses clearly states that they're ISO-certified. The kit even shows you how to create a special lens for your phone's camera.

$14 at Amazon

Want more traditional glasses for your eclipse-viewing party? This three-pack from Eclipsee (get it?) has plastic frames for a sturdier feel. They're scratch-resistant and one size fits most. 

$9 at Amazon

These solar eclipse glasses from Kesseph have a cool eclipse graphic on the side and ISO certification spelled out inside. Crease lines on the sides help you get a snug fit. The 10-pack comes with a phone-camera-lens filter. 

$17 at Amazon

Snag a five-pack for your family with Celestron EclipSmart's solar eclipse glasses. Each has creases to fold for a better fit, and the ISO certification is clearly marked inside.

$15 at Amazon

Got kids at home? SEIC's five pack offers three shades for children, along with two adult versions. The kids' versions come in a fun orange color. All of these glasses are ISO-certified.

$17 at Amazon

Just shopping for a younger crowd? Lunt's ISO certified junior solar eclipse glasses are designed for smaller faces. They also have an adorable graphic motif that kids will love. 

$13 at Amazon

Give your glasses a tryout before using them

You don't want to mess with your vision, which is why it's a good idea to test the glasses before the eclipse. "Try to view your cell phone flashlight or by looking at a bright light in your house," Zimmerman said. "You should barely be able to see those lights."

If you're wearing the right eyewear, you should be able to view the eclipse comfortably, Zimmerman said. "If you cannot comfortably view the stages of the partial eclipse, then your eclipse glasses may not be functioning properly," he added. If that's the case, stop looking at the eclipse immediately.

Are you living in the in the path of "totality"? You'll have a period of about two to three minutes when the sun is fully blocked and you can see the eclipse without eye protection, Zimmerman said. "Once the sun begins to be exposed again, it's in a partial eclipse and you'll need to put your eclipse glasses on," he said.