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Solar eclipse 2012: Where to buy eclipse glasses [updated]

May 19, 2012 |  8:56 am


Solar_eclipse_altazWhere can you buy eclipse sunglasses? It's hard to find, but there is a sure place to find them in Los Angeles -- Griffith Observatory.

The city-owned observatory in the Hollywood Hills is selling eclipse sunglasses for $2.99 a pair, and has plenty of them, said its spokeswoman Susan Szotyori.

[Updated, 2:30 p.m.: The Griffith Observatory has sold out of eclipse glasses.]

Griffith Observatory is open Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and on Sunday opens at 10 a.m. and will be open through the partial solar eclipse Sunday evening, which begins at 5:24 p.m. and reaches its maximum shadow at 6:38 p.m.

Best place to watch eclipse?

The observatory was determined to have a plentiful supply, Szotyori said, because officials there want to make sure everyone who comes to the observatory Sunday can view the eclipse safely. Looking directly at the sun can cause permanent vision loss, and most who do suffer blindness following eclipses are children and young adults, NASA says. Regular sunglasses won't do the trick.

Eclipse sunglasses, as you might imagine, are not really in demand most of the time, so it's hard to know where to find them. And, at least elsewhere, they were hard to keep in stock as eclipse frenzy took hold this week.

In Redding, Calif., which will enjoy a full "ring of fire" eclipse if the clouds stay away, stores reported quickly selling out of eclipse glasses earlier in the week but had more orders on the way, the Record-Searchlight newspaper reported.

So-called "No. 14" welder's glass -- which can also be used to look directly at the sun -- and special camera filters for solar eclipses were also difficult to find, the newspaper reported.

In Reno, Nev., the Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center sold out of 17,000 pairs of glasses earlier in the week, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported Thursday, and had to ordered an additional 10,000 pairs.

The Griffith Observatory will be also selling "Solarama" devices that will project an image of the eclipse on a surface for $9.99. [Updated, 2:30 p.m.: Solarama devices were also selling quickly. Some will be reserved for sale on Sunday on a first-come, first-served basis.]

Ringoffire_medOfficials said to make sure to buy the glasses from a reputable dealer, and beware of fakes. The glasses also must not be damaged or scratched.

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

The problem is that intense visible light can cause damage to cells in the eye, and can destroy them, according to NASA, and can cause temporary or permanent vision loss.

"When a person looks repeatedly or for a long time at the Sun without proper protection for the eyes, this photochemical retinal damage may be accompanied by a thermal injury - the high level of visible and near-infrared radiation causes heating that literally cooks the exposed tissue," NASA says.

"The danger to vision is significant because ... retinal injuries occur without any feeling of pain (there are no pain receptors in the retina), and the visual effects do not occur for at least several hours after the damage is done," the agency said. "Even when 99% of the Sun's surface ... is obscured during the partial phases of a solar eclipse, the remaining crescent Sun is still intense enough to cause a retinal burn."

And by the way -- don't throw your eclipse glasses away. Another rare cosmic sight will occur soon -- Venus move between the Earth and the Sun on June 5, and we will able to see a dark dot float across the surface of the sun. It will be the last such occurrence in our lifetime, says transitofvenus.org.

You can still enjoy the eclipse for free, wherever you are.

Waffle The simplest way  is to criss-cross your fingers waffle style to the sunlight, which will project the partial eclipse on the ground in front of you, according to a NASA video on Sunday's eclipse.    

You can also get a piece of cardboard, punch a nail through it, 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," Krupp said. The smaller the hole, the sharper image you can get. 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!   

Griffith Observatory will also have, for free, telescopes with specially designed filters for people to watch the eclipse directly.

Tweet your plans and photos to @latimes or @lanow with the hashtag #LATeclipse, or share your eclipse experience on our Facebook page. Let us know how your vantage point is. We'll be compiling the best reader moments from the evening.


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Solar eclipse 2012: L.A.'s last show in '92 obscured by clouds

Rare 'ring of fire' solar eclipse comes to California this weekend

--Rong-Gong Lin II

Photo: Nuns visiting from Peru take in eclipse in Lourdes, France on Aug. 11, 1999. Credit: Lionel Bonaventure / Agence France-Presse

Graphic: View of the eclipse from Los Angeles. Credit: Courtesy of Griffith Observatory, used with permission