How to safely watch a solar eclipse

With solar eclipses happening across the U.S. in 2023 and 2024, it's time to prepare to look at the Sun – with proper eye protection or filters. 

To safely view both the 2023 annular solar eclipse and the 2024 total solar eclipse, you'll need glasses with solar filters, sometimes known as eclipse glasses. 

First up, on Oct. 14, 2023, the annular eclipse will sweep from Oregon to Texas, covering 90% of the Sun during the maximum eclipse known as annularity. During the peak eclipse, the outer edges of the Sun will be the only parts visible from behind the Moon; this is known as the "ring of fire." There is no time during the Oct. 14 solar eclipse when you can remove your eye protection. 

Then, on April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will be visible from Texas to Maine. A total solar eclipse happens when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, completely blocking the Sun's face for several minutes. When the Sun is covered completely, known as totality, it is safe to remove your eclipse glasses when the Sun is covered by the Moon. The glasses must go back on before the partial eclipse resumes and part of the Sun is visible again. 


A partial solar eclipse is seen in Jakarta. This partial solar eclipse is part of a hybrid solar eclipse that crosses the eastern part of Indonesia and the Pacific region. (Photo by Risa Krisadhi/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Removing your glasses only applies if you are located along the path of totality in 2024. Most of the U.S. will see a partial solar eclipse but only a 115-mile-wide path will see the full eclipse. Check this solar eclipse map to see if you are along the path of totality for the 2024 total solar eclipse. 

Read on to find out where to get your eclipse glasses and what to know before you view a solar eclipse. 

What kind of glasses do I need to watch a solar eclipse?

It is only safe to look directly at the Sun while wearing special-purpose solar filter glasses. These glasses need to meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard for direct Sun viewing, according to the American Astronomical Society

Regular sunglasses are not safe for viewing any partial or annular eclipse because sunglasses allow more sunlight than is safe for your eyes. 


What to look for before buying eclipse glasses?

Using the AAS safe supplier list is one way to ensure you are getting eclipse glasses or a solar filter that meets the ISO 12312-2 safety standard.

Amazon and other online bargain sites aren't on the list, according to the AAS, because during the August 2017 Great American Eclipse, those sites hosted sellers with glasses that had "not been properly tested and shown to be safe."

If you do use Amazon, eBay or other sites to purchase glasses, check that the seller is identified and listed on the page, according to the AAS. 


Some big box stores sell ISO-compliant eclipse glasses while supplies last, including Home Depot, Lowes and Walmart, according to the AAS. 

Once you have your glasses, inspect the film for any scratches or wrinkled lenses. Do not use the glasses if they are damaged, or the solar filters are loose from their frames. 

Do eclipse glasses expire?

Eclipse glasses that meet the ISO certification standard and were made after 2015 do not expire, which is good news if you still have yours from the 2017 total solar eclipse. 


A Student wearing solar eclipse glasses watching the hybrid partial solar eclipse in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia, April 20, 2023. (Photo by: Dimas Rachmatsyah/INA Photo Agency/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Be sure to examine the solar filters before wearing the glasses to make sure they aren't damaged and safe to use. 

After the eclipse event, store your glasses at room temperature in a container to protect them from scratches, according to the AAS.

Can I use welding glasses or a helmet?

The National Parks Service is preparing for both the annular and total solar eclipses, which will cover many national parks across the U.S. In a list of frequently asked questions, the NPS addressed different options for eclipse glasses, including welding glasses.

No. 14 or darker welding glass is safe to view the eclipse, according to experts. However, those may need to be ordered online, and anything less than a No. 14 is too light. 


It is also not safe to view the Sun through a piece of mylar from a balloon or a straw hat, according to the NPS FAQs.

How to safely photograph a solar eclipse 

Just like your eyes, your camera also needs protection from the intense sunlight. Special-purpose solar filters must be on cameras and telescopes during all partial and annular eclipse phases. During a total solar eclipse, you can remove the filter during totality.

The filter must be attached to the front of your camera lens, not the eyepiece. According to the AAS, if the filter is attached to the eyepiece, the sunlight is too concentrated and will burn through it. 

It is unsafe to look through an unfiltered camera during a partial eclipse.

Read more of this story from FOX Weather