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First responders to public: Don't look directly into the sun

Here's an overview of how to keep your eyes safe during a solar eclipse and where to find reputable vendors for solar eclipse glasses

First responders around the U.S. are warning the public about the safe way to view the upcoming solar eclipse on Aug. 21. The total solar eclipse – when the moon passes between the sun and Earth – will sweep across the U.S. And depending on where you live, it will either fully or partially block the sun.

Tens of millions of people will gather to view the spectacle – starting in Oregon the morning of Aug. 21. The total solar eclipse will then cross through Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and end in South Carolina by mid-afternoon. The rest of the U.S. will be able to view a partial eclipse.

And while you will be in temporary or partial darkness, it's important to remember why you were always told to never look directly at the sun. Recently, Amazon has recalled many solar eclipse glasses that claimed they were compliant with the international safety standard but were later found to be counterfeit glasses.

You should never (ever) look directly at the sun. (Photo/NASA)
You should never (ever) look directly at the sun. (Photo/NASA)

Here’s an overview of how to keep your eyes safe during a solar eclipse and where to find reputable vendors for solar eclipse glasses.

1. How do solar eclipse glasses work?

Regular sunglasses won't cut it, folks. Solar eclipse glasses, according to NASA, use neutral density filters to block out a large portion of brightness from the sun. You must only view the solar eclipse through special-purpose safe solar filters. The ISO 12312-2 international safety standard requires solar eclipse glasses to be thousands of times darker than regular sunglasses.

2. How to tell if your solar eclipse glasses are safe

Solar eclipse glasses must meet the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard, which helps block out solar UV and infrared radiation. However, some companies are including the ISO logo and ISO 12312-2 certification when their glasses are in fact not compliant or legitimate. Only five companies make glasses that the American Astronomical Society and NASA have certified as safe. Click here to see a list of approved solar eclipse glasses vendors.

3. Fire and EMS departments: Warn your community

Alert your residents about the dangers of the fake solar eclipse glasses by spreading word via social media. Over the weekend, the Cedar Hill (Mo.) Fire Protection District posted a message on their Facebook account warning against fake glasses. They handed out 250 pairs to residents that were later deemed fake and recalled by Amazon. Be sure to remind your community's residents about the importance of protecting their eyes with the proper solar glasses.

4. How to view the solar eclipse safely

When viewing the solar eclipse, according to NASA, be sure to cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses before looking at the sun. After looking at the sun, you must turn away and remove your glasses. Don't remove your glasses while looking at the sun. NASA also warns viewers to not look at the sun through a camera, telescope, binoculars or other optical devices while using eclipse glasses. If you do, the solar rays can damage the filter and enter your eyes.

5. The consequences of failing to follow instruction

As previously mentioned, you should never (ever) look directly at the sun. If you do, you must see an ophthalmologist immediately. Damage to the retina from direct sun exposure, also called Solar Retinopathy, is permanent, according to Astronomy Online. A man in Oregon is calling attention to the viewing dangers after he became visually impaired during a partial eclipse in 1962. The man's retina was burned and he can now only see about the size of a pea in his right eye.

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