Solar viewing filters

Seth Jarvis

The May 20th Annular Eclipse is definitely something you want to see for yourself, but looking straight at the Sun without proper eye protection can cause permanent, significant vision loss.

Your retinas don’t have pain receptors, so if you ignore this warning and look at the Sun directly, it won’t hurt while you ruin your eyesight.  Ophthalmologists (medical doctors who specialize in conditions and diseases of the eye) have a word for this kind of vision loss: Solar Retinopathy.  I like to call it, “Fried Eyes Syndrome.”

Look at the image below – that’s the retina of a human eye that’s been damaged by looking directly at the Sun. Those dark areas in the center of the image are where sunlight has literally cooked the surface of the retina.

Solor Retinopathy

So what do you do to observe the eclipse while avoiding Fried Eyes Solar Retinopathy?

You’ve got lots of options.  The Planet Fun Store at Clark Planetarium sells a variety of solar viewing filters that are designed to be worn like sunglasses or slipped over the front of your binoculars or telescope.  These will not only come in handy for the May 20th Annular Eclipse, but also the June 5thTransit of Venus and the August 21, 2017 Total Eclipse of the Sun that will be visible in much of the U.S.

You can buy eclipse shades at our store.

Even better, any time there’s some significant sunspot activity (as expected next year) you can use these filters to look at sunspots.

Now about what NOT to use for eye protection – here are the definite no-no’s:

  • Sunglasses, even doubled-up, even polarized. They don’t block enough light.


  • Smoked glass. The soot coating is very difficult to get to just the right thickness, and it rubs off way too easily.


  • Exposed Black & White film.  1) Who on Earth still has film these days? and 2) The odds are hugely against you having the right kind of film and properly exposing and then developing it to make it useful as a solar filter.


  • Welders Goggles.  Unless they’re Grade 14 or stronger and specifically made for arc welding, they don’t provide adequate protection.


If you’re still confused about this, don’t hesitate to email or phone us.

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32 thoughts on “Solar viewing filters

  1. I Would love to purchase these viewing filters the Planetarium sells but I live in southern Utah, Can they be purchased online or over the phone?

  2. Emily,

    Call the planetarium’s main phone number: 385-468-7827. Sometimes the number is answered by on automated system so you might have to press “0″ to be connected to a real person.

    Ask to be connected to the science store. They’ll take your order over the phone, you can pay with a credit card, and we’ll mail the glasses to you. Happy viewing!

  3. Pingback: VisionHealth EyeCare » Blog Archive » Annular Solar Eclipse May 20, 2012

  4. Is it a bad idea to use these filtered glasses to view the eclipse through a telescope that doesn’t have a solar filter on it?

  5. It is a VERY bad idea. Filters should always go over the FRONT of a telescope or binoculars, never the back (where your eyes are). It’s all about the amount of filtering per square mm of of lens. Placing the filters at the eyepeice would be very dangerous – that’s way too much concentrated light for the filters to handle. They might even melt away and then your eye would be exposed to concentrated sunlight. That’s WAY dangerous!

    The filters in the eclipse glasses are intended to use with your eyes. You can wear them over your regular glasses if you need to.

    One thing I’ve done successfully is cut a pair of eclipse glasses into two peices and use black electrical tape (opaque to light) to tape the individual filters over each front lens of a pair of binoculars. That keeps the filtering per square mm consistent with their original purpose, but also lets you get a useful amount of magnification from your binocs to better see the eclipse.

    Hope that helps!

  6. Do you know of any other stores in either salt lake or utah county that may have solar glasses in stock? The message on the ClarkPlanetarium main phone states they will be available at the viewing parties but we will be heading south to near Delta.


  7. We are out of eclipse glasses today (Wednesday) but the word is we’ll have a new shipment of 4,000 arrive Thursday morning. We sold 2,000 pair of them in two hours just today, so tomorrow’s shipment may only last us into Friday. Once they’re gone, that’s it for us – we can’t get more here by Saturday.

    You might also try the gift shops within either the new Museum of Natural History or Leonardo in Library Square. I’m told they have eclipse glasses.

    Good luck and safe viewing!

  8. Seth,
    Can you post on here when the shipment comes in this morning?


  9. Eclipse viewers just arrived (11:45 AM). We received 10,000 viewers, and we had pre-orders for 3,000.

    So for the remaining 7k:

    The store can’t take any more phone calls. Viewers are being sold on a first-come, first served basis. Same price: $1.95.

  10. Wow I sent my son down to get the glasses and he said all you had were things to hold up to your eyes and not the glasses? And you were out of filters for scopes and stuff. Any other places you know of that we could get them?

  11. The eclipse viewers we got in this morning actually work very well. Just hold them up to your eyes. Most folks hold on to the cardboard glasses that way.

  12. Are there any glasses left that would be available first thing Friday morning?

  13. Steve,

    Here’s what I’ll do…

    The moment I get in to work tomorrow (Friday) morning I’ll find out what stock, if any, we have of eclipse viewers and I’ll update this reply with a status report before I do anything else.

    I’ve got to say we are blown away by the public’s interest in this. I hope this means lots of people will be joining us at one of the viewing sites we’ve set up with the good people of the Salt Lake Astronomical Society, Weber State U, and the U of U

  14. Can I get any of those glasses in utah county? Also were can you see the eclipse?

  15. Britni,

    There’s an Astronomy Festival at BYU on Saturday, and I’m told they will have _some_ (as in, not many) eclipse glasses to give away there. If you don’t get any of the eclipse glasses they’re handing out at the Y on Saturday, then I recommend you visit the Eclipse Viewing event we’re hosting in Sandy at the Dimple Dell Recreation Center. It’s at 106th South and 10th East. We’ll be starting at 6:00 PM Sunday, and we’ll have telescopes and binoculars available that have been equipped with proper solar viewing filters.

    We’ll also be using Pinhole Projection boxes, which you can make for yourself with little more than a long cardboard box and a bit of aluminum foil.

    Sandy is the closest organized viewing location available to Utah County, but there are other locations in the Salt Lake area that also will have solar telescopes set up for public viewing.

  16. I’m heading to the city today in search if these glasses. I know where The Planetarium is, but not the other to places that may have them. I *think* I found the NHM but not the address for Leonardo. Any help would be nice before I head South to get list in the city. Thanks

  17. Leonardo (located at Library Square) and the Museum of Natural History (east bench near Red Butte Gardens) are both out of viewers.

  18. We completely ran out of eclipse viewers at about noon today. Please join us for free public viewing of the eclipse at:

    The Gateway by the Olympic fountain,
    Library Square,
    U of U South Phyics Observatory,
    Weber State University (Ogden) Lind Lecture Hall,
    Sam’s Club parking lot (Murray),
    and in Sandy at the Dimple Dell Recreation Center at 106th South & 10th East.

    The eclipse begins at 6:20 PM and goes until sunset at about 8:30 PM.

  19. Weber State University’s Ott Planetarium still has a pile in stock!! They cost $2 – same as Clark Planetarium. They close at 4pm today, and won’t be open again until Sunday for viewing. Hope that helps anyone up north like me.

    Clark Planetarium, thanks for all the info here and for having a viewing party! My kids still remember when we got to visit there! :)

  20. Word is that The Leonardo is supposed to receive a shipment today. The Leonardo (located at Library Square, 2nd East & 5th South) opens at 11AM. Their phone number is 801-531-9800.

    If you can’t get eclipse glasses but you still want to see the eclipse, please join us at one of the several locations we’ll be operating with volunteers from the Salt Lake Astronomical Society and the U of U.

  21. Do you have or know where i could get an 11 inch by 11 inch filter to put in front of my telescope to view venus over the sun?

  22. Jake, by the end of this week we will have some large sheets of aluminized Mylar that you could use to make a full aperture solar filter of that size.

  23. Any chance that there will be more eclipse glasses before the transit of Venus?

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