Fake solar eclipse glasses are everywhere ahead of the total solar eclipse. Here's how to check yours are safe

the sun can be seen through a pair of dark solar eclipse glasses held up to the sky
A crescent of a solar eclipse can be seen in both lenses of specialized viewing glasses. (Image credit: Brian Farrell/Getty Images)

April 8's total solar eclipse is just two weeks away today.

Millions of people along the path of totality will be viewing the total eclipse, meaning millions of pairs of eyes will gazing up at the sun for hours as the eclipse unfolds. When it comes to solar observation, safety is paramount as viewing the sun directly and without protection can cause serious and long-term damage to your eyes.

That's why ahead of the once-in-a-lifetime natural phenomenon, the American Astronomical Society (AAS) is warning people about the risks of counterfeit and knock-off solar glasses

Related: Solar eclipse glasses: Where to buy the best, high-quality eyewear
Read more: Total solar eclipse 2024: Everything you need to know

The AAS says there is a way in which you can test your solar glasses before using them for the event. If you wear them inside, you shouldn't be able to see anything except for very bright lights, but they will appear faint. If you can see things like pictures on the wall then the glasses are not dark enough for solar viewing. If they pass that indoor test, you can take them outdoors and have a look around. 

Again, you shouldn't be able to see anything when wearing eclipse glasses other than the sun's reflection off a reflective surface and again, it should appear faint. If your glasses fail any of these home tests, you should either try and get a refund or discard them. 

It is worth noting that not all counterfeit solar glasses are fake and therefore, unsafe. Some counterfeits are just a straight rip-off as one manufacturer imitates another but still produces the same quality. There is, however, a rise in fake models which, when put on, appear no darker than regular sunglasses, which are unsafe for direct solar viewing. 

A map showing what the sun will look like across the united states during a solar eclipse on April 8, 2024. (Image credit: Larry Koehn/ShadowAndSubstance.com)

Eye protection for solar eclipses can come in the form of a specialist telescope, binoculars, solar filters or even trusty paper eclipse glasses. Unfortunately, with the solar eclipse fast approaching, the number of fake solar glasses is rising, which can be unsafe for solar viewing.

If you want to view the solar eclipse safely, equipment that meets the ISO 12312-2 standards means that they're safe for use. For this, the equipment must be tested in a laboratory and approved by a recognized accrediting body. Unfortunately, anyone can print a statement that says their product meets the ISO standards which is why checking out the AAS's list of approved safe solar viewers can give you peace of mind. 

The inside left earpieces of counterfeit Chinese (top) and genuine American (bottom) eclipse glasses. Much of the text on the counterfeit glasses is copied from the real ones. Note that the counterfeit glasses include the name of U.S. company American Paper Optics but not the address (though there is a spurious fragment of an unrelated address above the name), whereas APO's glasses include both their name and address, as required by the ISO 12312-2 international standard for filters for direct observation of the sun. (Image credit: American Paper Optics and the American Astronomical Society)

We have in-depth guides to the best solar viewing kit and solar glasses worth checking out if you're looking for safe solar observing equipment just before the total solar eclipse. 

The total solar eclipse will be visible in certain areas of Mexico, the U.S. and Canada on April 8 for a brief period of totality. That period is when the moon will appear almost as large as the Sun and block out the star's light, leaving areas within the path of totality in darkness. You can watch the total solar eclipse live, here on space.com.

This time around, the period of totality will last for between about three and five minutes, which is considerably longer than the total solar eclipse back in 2017. If you're still unsure about safe solar observation, we have an in-depth guide on how to view the sun safely, which you can check out. 

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Alexander Cox
E-commerce Staff Writer

STAFF WRITER, E-commerce — Alex joined Space.com in June 2021 as staff writer covering space news, games, tech, toys and deals. Based in London, U.K. Graduating in June 2020, Alex studied Sports Journalism in the North East of England at Sunderland University. During his studies and since his graduation, Alex has been featured in local newspapers and online publications covering a range of sports from university rugby to Premier League soccer. In addition to a background in sports and journalism, Alex has a life-long love of Star Wars which started with watching the prequel trilogy and collecting toy lightsabers, he also grew up spending most Saturday evenings watching Doctor Who. 


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  • Helio
    Good advise. Faulty glasses could easily be a problem.

    I did find the ISO standards: here
    The Maximum visible range in the ISO standard is 99.9968% (0.0032%). So I will assume the advertised 99.99% is likely adequate given their limited use, and of a diminished Sun thanks to the Moons blockage. :)
    Reply
  • billslugg
    A couple of comments:
    - Is it possible to go any lower than make a few bucks off making someone blind?
    - I just read a caution not to use anything but commercially supplied eclipse glasses that post an ISO endorsement. I guess that goes out the window.
    - The same post warned against the use of telescope quality solar filters. What's up with that?
    - Now that we have a "test", can we start using our #14 or darker welding glass?
    Reply
  • Classical Motion
    I use to used welding glass. I heard that the eyes can heal from the visible damage, but the UV was the danger. So UV protection is a must. But that's just what I hear.

    And I had to have cataracts removed twice. So much for what I hear.

    Now days I would use a projection. It's easier for for me to observe down instead of up.
    Reply
  • Helio
    billslugg said:
    A couple of comments:
    - Is it possible to go any lower than make a few bucks off making someone blind?
    Well, the ineffective fake ones would likely block enough sunlight so that the user would quickly see that the Sun is too stinking bright, thus not use them.

    The problem is that there are cases where people are so bound and determined to see the eclipse just before or after totality that they ignore the pain signals for a fraction too long. There, no doubt, will be reports of people, once again, that end up in the ER due to eye problems.
    billslugg said:

    - I just read a caution not to use anything but commercially supplied eclipse glasses that post an ISO endorsement. I guess that goes out the window.
    Right, the best lies don't look like lies so throw the letters ISO on them.
    billslugg said:

    - The same post warned against the use of telescope quality solar filters. What's up with that?
    I must have missed that.
    Reply
  • Helio
    Classical Motion said:
    I use to used welding glass. I heard that the eyes can heal from the visible damage, but the UV was the danger. So UV protection is a must. But that's just what I hear.
    It's my understanding that retina damage is often permanent.

    The UV is the worst but even IR can damage the retina. The ISO for IR is a minimum of 97% blockage, thus far more tolerant. For very short periods, I would assume this isn't a big issue. I've looked at a setting Sun on a dusty day where it appeared orange due to extra atmospheric scattering. It was easy on the eyes. But, for enjoyment and better protection when the Sun is dim, I will sometimes use binoculars. Warning... don't use binoculars on the Sun when it's remotely bright, or anything bright for that matter without proper filters. ]
    Why binoculars? Even when a setting Sun, on rare occasions, is dim enough to be comfortable looking at it, people forget or are unaware that most of the IR is not blocked by our atmosphere. NASA has a warning about this, though they don't mention using binoculars. *cough* Glass, as in binoculars, reduce the IR problem. Also, binoculars and telescopes never, due to optical laws, increase the surface brightness of an object. The total brightness increases, which is spread out more over your retina (magnification). Of course, the change in the focal plane when adjusting the binoculars would be an issue, but unlikely a problem as long as the Sun is easy on the eyes, meaning a brightness less than a full moon.
    Reply
  • billslugg
    Yes, UV, infrared and visible must all be attenuated. You might have a bad filter, one that attenuates visible to a comfortable level but passes damaging UV and infrared, which might not trigger the pain reflex. I used stacked B&W negatives at age 10, in St Croix, VI on a partial eclipse July 23, 1963 for many hours and never had any damage I ever became aware of. I have observed the Sun for many hours since then with 30x100 binoculars equipped with solar filters. I have used #14 welding glass as well. I am age 71, never had cataracts.
    Reply
  • Helio
    Is there an easy way to test for UV transmittance?
    Reply
  • billslugg
    Helio said:
    Is there an easy way to test for UV transmittance?
    I don't believe there is a DIY answer with common objects found in the average household. There are UV light meters on the internet in the $30-$200 range. I know that #14 welder's glass works, also commercial solar filters from reputable telescope makers.
    Reply
  • Atlan0001
    Search your various glasses' brands on the internet specifying "solar eclipse" and/or UV protection.
    Reply