WASHINGTON — With the highly anticipated solar eclipse coming on Monday, glasses that allow you to watch the event safely are flying off shelves everywhere, and eyeglass retailer Warby Parker is seeing that first-hand.
The company is giving away NASA-certified eclipse glasses for free, and stores are running out of glasses each day soon after they open their doors.
“I have a 12-year-old son who’s really excited about looking at it,” said Adina Liuzzo, who stopped by the Warby Parker store in Bethesda, Maryland, Tuesday morning. “He wanted to make sure that he had the glasses and he could actually see.”
In addition to Bethesda, Warby Parker also has a location in Tysons Corner, Virginia, as well as in the D.C. neighborhoods of Shaw and Georgetown.
The U.S. has not had a full solar eclipse spanning coast to coast in 99 years.
“We have an opportunity to experience a spectacular natural phenomenon, and we can enjoy it with some simple protection. But if you don’t use that protection, you’ll be paying for it for the rest of your life,” said Dr. Paul Sternberg, director of the Vanderbilt Eye Institute, in Nashville.
What can happen when you look directly at the sun? You’re essentially cooking your retina.
It’s known as solar blindness or solar retinopathy, similar to age-related macular degeneration, which causes trouble reading or recognizing faces.
Seconds are enough for retinal sunburn. And unlike with the skin, you can’t feel it.
“It’s really important to resist the urge to look, even momentarily, directly in the sun, because you have no real sense of time,” says Dr. Christopher Quinn, president of the American Optometric Association. “What you think may be a glancing look could be a more substantial amount of time, and that can result in permanent damage.”
Certified eclipse glasses or hand-held viewers are a must for direct viewing.
Worried about potentially dangerous knockoffs, NASA, the American Astronomical Society and others are urging eclipse watchers to stick with reputable makers of sun-gazing devices. The society’s solar eclipse task force put out a list of approved manufacturers.
Eclipse glasses can be worn directly over your prescription glasses or with contacts. As for binoculars, telescopes and cameras, high-quality solar filters are essential and must be mounted at the front end.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.