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Amazon sued over solar eclipse glasses

Eclipse glasses
A boy wearing protective glasses watches a partial solar eclipse from Arlington, Va., in 2014. (NASA Photo / Bill Ingalls)

A South Carolina couple has filed a lawsuit against Amazon, claiming that they suffered eye damage even though they used protective glasses sold through the online retailer.

In the lawsuit, filed Aug. 29 in U.S. District Court in Charleston, S.C., Thomas Corey Payne and his fiancee, Kayla Harris, say that the glasses were defective and that Amazon was negligent in allowing them to be sold. They also accuse Amazon of unfair and deceptive trade practices.

They’re asking the court to grant the lawsuit class-action status, which could let other customers across the country join in the effort to seek as-yet unspecified damages. They’re also asking for a jury trial.

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Eclipse Journal: Mystery plane identified

Plane and corona
The sun’s corona silhouettes an airplane during the total solar eclipse. (Dustin Huntington Photo via SpaceWeather.com)

GeekWire reporters and correspondents documented the 2017 solar eclipse from the Pacific Northwest, including our home base in Seattle and locations in the “Path of Totality” in Oregon. Follow our eclipse adventures, including the mysterious case of the plane and the corona, in our running live blog.

Check out all the blog items on GeekWire.

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Look back at the eclipse in a different light

Eclipse composite image
This week’s solar eclipse progresses through totality in a composite image from Madras, Ore. (NASA Photo / Aubrey Gemignani)

This week’s total solar eclipse ranked among history’s most widely documented celestial events, thanks to streaming video and social media. NASA and its media partners announced today that 12.1 million unique viewers watched the spectacle via NASA.gov’s live stream, and millions more saw it by other means – including their own cameras and their own eyes.

Most of the pictures focused on the blacked-out sun and the delicate corona surrounding the disk, but there were lots of other perspectives on the first coast-to-coast, all-American total eclipse to take place in 99 years.

Find out about five favorite perspectives on GeekWire.

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Seattle space sisters learn lots from eclipse

Loki Lego Launcher
The moon’s shadow can be seen in the background of this picture taken by a camera on the Yeung sisters’ Loki Lego Launcher. A picture of the Yeung family’s late cat, Loki, and a Lego minifigure of Amelia Earhart take up the foreground. (Rebecca and Kimberly Yeung Photo)

Not everything turned out the way pre-teen sisters Rebecca and Kimberly Yeung expected when they sent their Loki Lego Launcher balloon platform into the shadow of a solar eclipse. But that in itself was a big lesson for the stratospheric science team from Seattle.

The Yeung family – including 12-year-old Rebecca and 10-year-old Kimberly as well as their parents, Winston and Jennifer Yeung – drove westward from the launch site in Wyoming after the Aug. 21 eclipse and were due back in Seattle late tonight.

“There are many lessons that we learned, and we are continuing to talk about them as we continue our long drive home (our car ride home always seems to be our mission debrief session),” the girls wrote today on their blog.

The total solar eclipse was a teachable moment for the Yeungs as well as other citizen scientists participating in the Eclipse Ballooning Project.

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Did you miss totality? Relive it with this video

MADRAS, Ore. – Some skywatchers spend thousands of dollars on telescopes, cameras and other hardware to document a solar eclipse. John E. Hoots did it with a Sony Handycam video camera.

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Eclipse dims the sun from coast to coast

Total eclipse
The eclipse as viewed from Bald Mountain, Idaho, photographed by Kevin Lisota. The purple coloring on the underside is an eclipse phenomenon known as Baily’s Beads, in which the craters on the moon’s surface allow partial sunlight to shine through. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

MADRAS, Ore. – The spectacle that skywatchers made years’ worth of plans to see finally happened today, darkening the sky during a total solar eclipse.

The moon began covering up the sun over Oregon just after 9 a.m. PT, with thousands of cameras equipped with solar filters trained on the sight.

The shadow of the moon streaked eastward from Oregon to the coast of South Carolina, delivering the first all-American total solar eclipse in 99 years.

The temperature in summery Madras, where thousands of eclipse-watchers gathered, cooled from 73 to 64 degrees Fahrenheit as the eclipse neared its climax.

Just before totality, sunlight waned as if someone was turning down a dimmer switch. A wave of darkness swept in from the west. Day turned into night, to the cheers of the Oregon Solarfest assembly at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds in Madras.

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Oregon feels the calm before totality

Prelude to eclipse
Clouds partially obscure the sun over Oregon Solarfest in Madras, Ore., precisely 24 hours in advance of Monday’s total solar eclipse. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

MADRAS, Ore. – Traffic to Oregon’s total eclipse zone has been surprisingly light over the past couple of days, but officials say they’re not out of the woods yet.

The traffic flow to Salem and Corvallis on the west side of the Cascades, and to Madras and points eastward on the dry side of the mountains, has been “very manageable,” Lou Torres, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation, told GeekWire today.

“We do anticipate that it’ll pick up later this afternoon, and into tonight and Monday morning,” he said.

After Torres spoke, Oregon DOT and the Oregon State Police reported slowdowns on Highway 97 between Redmond and Madras. Tripcheck.com’s traffic flow map showed troublesome red spots, and traffic through downtown Madras was bumper-to-bumper.

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Last-minute guide to the total solar eclipse

Traffic in Oregon
Cars are lined up on Highway 26 heading east from Prineville, Ore., several days before the total solar eclipse. (Ochoco National Forest Photo)

It’s prime time at last for the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse, America’s first coast-to-coast dose of totality in 99 years.

Maybe you’re a veteran eclipse-chaser who’s been preparing for this since 1979, the last time a total eclipse was visible from the mainland U.S. Or maybe you’re a newbie who just heard that the moon is going to cover the sun.

Either way, it’s not too late to enjoy the eclipse, whether you’re planning to get within the 70-mile-wide path of totality or stay at home. But you do have to be prepared, especially if you haven’t done any planning until now.

The bad news is that traffic and accommodations are already getting jammed up, and viewing equipment is in vanishingly short supply. The good news is that it takes as little as two pieces of paper and a pin to get a good look at the partial solar eclipse.

Get the full story (and podcast) from GeekWire.

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Amazon hands out refunds for eclipse glasses

Solar eclipse glasses
Agena Astro says that its solar eclipse glasses were made by a vendor on the American Astronomical Society’s list of reputable manufacturers, and that reports claiming they’re unsafe are “completely untrue and incorrect.” (Agena Astro Photo)

Amazon says it’s giving customers refunds for solar viewing glasses and filters that aren’t covered by the American Astronomical Society’s list of reputable vendors.

“Safety is among our highest priorities,” Amazon explained in a statement provided to GeekWire. “Out of an abundance of caution, we have proactively reached out to customers and provided refunds for eclipse glasses that may not comply with industry standards. We want customers to buy with confidence anytime they make a purchase on Amazon.com, and eclipse glasses sold on Amazon.com are required to comply with the relevant ISO standard.”

Amazon’s action sent some of the affected sellers scrambling to defend their products, with the Aug. 21 solar eclipse just a little more than a week away.

The brouhaha began a little less than two weeks ago, when the AAS reported that some vendors were selling eclipse glasses that didn’t block enough of the sun’s potentially eye-damaging radiation, and were going so far as to print bogus certification labels on the glasses.

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Warning issued about fake eclipse glasses

Eclipse glasses
Eclipse glasses let you see a partial solar eclipse safely, but they have to come from a reputable dealer. (AAS / Evan Zucker Photo)

The country’s top astronomical organization says it’s alarmed by reports that potentially unsafe eclipse glasses are flooding the market in advance of the all-American solar eclipse on Aug. 21 – and in response, it has issued a list of approved manufacturers and vendors.

The flap already has sparked online battles between reviewers on Amazon’s website.

One dissatisfied “Verified Purchase” customer went so far as to post a picture that purportedly shows the glow of a 60-watt light bulb as seen through solar filters that were made in China.

“This would not be sufficient to protect your eyes from the sun,” the reviewer wrote in his one-star assessment. “I would never trust my eyesight to a pair of glasses from China.”

Get the full story on GeekWire.