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Solar eclipse glasses sold out at Griffith Observatory

May 19, 2012 |  3:37 pm

Monks watch a solar eclipse
Solar eclipse viewing times
As eclipse mania becomes a frenzy, special solar eclipse glasses have sold out at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.

The city-run observatory is one of the few local places known to sell eclipse glasses, but its stock of 2,500 pairs ran out late Friday night, spokeswoman Susa Szotyori said.

"The glasses are completely gone," Szotyori said. She said the observatory's gift shop had fully expected to have plenty of glasses, which sold for $2.99 each, available through the Sunday eclipse. "They're equally stunned as everyone," she said.

The observatory was planning to set up extra free telescopes and binoculars with special filters to let the public view the eclipse when it begins Sunday at 5:24 p.m. in Los Angeles.

ALSO: Best time to watch Sunday's eclipse

The observatory also had a small supply of $9.99 Solarama devices that project an image of the eclipse onto a surface, but they were running short on them also, and were planning to reserve some for sale on Sunday on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Science museums and planetariums across the West have had a hard time keeping the special glasses in stock. Demand surged this week in areas that will see a full "ring of fire" eclipse, rather than the partial eclipse viewable in Southern California.

The Chico Community Observatory in Northern California saw its 2,000 pairs sell out by Thursday night, the Chico Enterprise-Record reported.

In Redding, about 150 miles north of Sacramento, the Office of Education, parks and an optometrist's office saw their supplies vanish by Thursday and were hoping to secure more, according to the Record-Searchlight. And the Shasta Welding Supply was inundated with requests for No. 14 welder's glass, which was also in short supply, the Record-Searchlight said. No. 14 welder's glass is a commercially available filter that offers protection when looking at the sun -- but blocks so much light that even welders typically don't use it.

Eclipse-cross-irfan-khan-2000In Reno, the Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center sold out of 17,000 pairs of glasses earlier in the week and was ordering an additional 10,000 pairs, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported Thursday.

 NASA has issued strict warnings against looking at the sun during an eclipse without proper protection. "Most individuals who sustain eclipse-related eye injuries are children and young adults," a NASA report said.

The light from the sun, even during an eclipse, can literally cook cells in the eyes and cause temporary or permanent blindness. Viewers may not realize the damage to their eyes until hours later, and the blinding process can be painless.

There are plenty ways to safely observe the eclipse without buying special equipment.

Waffle The simplest way is to crisscross your fingers like a waffle and hold them in the sunlight, which will project the partial eclipse on the ground in front of you, according to a NASA video on Sunday's eclipse. (An image from the video, at right, shows how.)

You also could get a piece of cardboard, punch a hole in it with a nail and then angle the cardboard to project the sun's light on another piece of cardboard. "You'll see a projected image.… When the sun goes into eclipse, you'll see a crescent," Griffith Observatory director Ed Krupp said. The smaller the hole, the sharper the resulting image. A more elaborate version can be found here.    

Another easy method: using a hand mirror to reflect the light of the sun onto a wall or some other surface, Krupp said. 

Another idea is to use binoculars to project an image of the sun on a surface, NASA says. Just don't use the binoculars to look at the sun directly!  


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-- Rong-Gong Lin II

Photo: Buddhist monks watch a solar eclipse near the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Aug. 11, 1999. Credit: Jacques Brinon / Associated Press

Graphic: View of Sunday's eclipse from Los Angeles. Credit: Griffith Observatory, used with permission

Photo: A partial solar eclipse in Pomona in 2000. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Photo: Interlocking fingers waffle-style is one way to project an eclipse on to the sidewalk. Credit: NASA