All of the continental United States and Canada will witness a solar eclipse on Aug. 21, but you’ll need eye protection to see the partial phase safely. This may be the event that turns solar-filter glasses into a mass-market fashion statement.
If you think regular sunglasses, compact discs or exposed photographic film will do the trick, think again. (Besides, who has film lying around anymore?) As long as even a sliver of the sun’s disk is uncovered, virtually the only safe way to see the spectacle directly is through special spectacles.
Fortunately, there should be plenty of solar-viewing glasses to go around. The Robert D. and Jessie L. Stinnett Trust is facilitating distribution of glasses from American Paper Optics through the 2017solar.com website: You can order four pairs of glasses online for $5, but the offer ends on Aug. 1.
Astronomers Without Borders and other nonprofit groups are shipping glasses as well. Plenty of other online outlets sell the glasses (as well as solar filters for cameras, binoculars and telescopes), but whatever you do, make sure your shipment arrives before Aug. 21.
Libraries across the country, including Seattle Public Library, are distributing free eclipse glasses to all comers.