Your viewing plans are not in place until you've nailed down eye protection for yourself and your family.

By Meghan Overdeep
August 09, 2017
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girl wearing solar eclipse glasses
Credit: Daniel MacDonald /

With the entire country counting down the days until the long-awaited solar eclipse makes its way from sea to shining sea—from Oregon to South Carolina, to be exact—on August 21, it's high time we talked about the safest way to watch the rare celestial event. Trust us: your viewing plans are not in place until you've nailed down eye protection for yourself and your family.

No matter how you slice it, it just isn't safe to look at the sun with the naked eye. Its surface is so bright that if you stare at any portion of it, for any amount of time, it has the ability to permanently damage your retina. This occurs with no pain, and it can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days for damage to become apparent.

"Once the total eclipse starts, there's only about 30 seconds to a minute of prime viewing, and it's over before you know it," Dr. Myron Wasiuta, a Virginia-based optometrist and amateur astronomer, explained in a statement from the American Optometric Association. "It's an utterly bewildering and awe-inspiring occurrence: birds begin to roost, streetlights come on, the temperature drops and it's as if the whole Earth is confused about what it should be doing.

"But you've got to be careful," Wasiuta continued. "Just before it's over, you'll see beads of light starting to form on the trailing edge—Baily's Beads—and that's the sign that you need to avert your eyes. The sun can be bright enough to cause retinal damage."

If, like most of us, you don't have access to a welder's mask, experts agree that the best way to protect your peepers is with a pair of eclipse goggles. Here are five companies that make glasses that are certified as safe by the American Astronomical Society and NASA. Make sure that whatever you buy is CE and ISO Certified Solar Safe.

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Buy them in bulk on the Bartlett, Tennessee-based company's website, or find them at Walmart, Lowes, ToysRUs, Home Depot and Amazon.

This retailer sells snazzy shades individually (starting at $4.29 a pop) and in bulk on their website in addition to Amazon and Walmart.

You can find this tried-and-true company's trusted eclipse glasses (used by NASA aboard the Space Shuttle) on Amazon.

These folks are all about a custom viewing experience. Shop from a variety of CE and ISO Certified Solar Safe products on their website and at Walmart and Amazon.

This Germany-based company offers an assortment of solar viewing products that promise 100% ultra-violet protection and a reduction of sunlight intensity by 99.999%. Find them at Walmart.

If you're feeling crafty (or are out of time), find out how to DIY your very own NASA pinhole camera here.