This Is the Gear You Need to View the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse

Protect your eyesight with eclipse glasses, binoculars, telescopes or lens filters

Texas Motor Speedway staff watch the August 21, 2017, solar eclipse in Fort Worth, Texas.
Texas Motor Speedway staff watch the August 21, 2017, total solar eclipse through special eclipse glasses. Richard Rodriguez / Getty Images

On April 8, a total solar eclipse will be visible across large swaths of North America—and, while it may seem illogical, this period of semidarkness, in which the moon completely blocks out the sun, is an important time to practice eye safety.

You probably won’t want to tear your eyes away from the stunning celestial spectacle. But staring directly at the sun can lead to solar retinopathy, a condition where light floods the eye’s retina. In 1999, 45 patients visited an eye clinic in Leicester, England, after viewing a solar eclipse without proper eyewear. About half of the patients suffered from eye pain; the others reported impaired vision. None of these eclipse watchers was completely blinded, but several incurred long-term damage.

The last time a total solar eclipse passed over the contiguous United States was on August 21, 2017, when the path of totality stretched from Oregon to South Carolina. This year’s event promises to be even more spectacular: According to NASA, the 2024 eclipse path will be between 108 and 122 miles wide, as opposed to between 62 and 71 miles wide in 2017. In other words, “this eclipse covers more ground,” and more people will be able to easily see it.

Map of the 2024 total solar eclipse path
Using observations from different NASA missions, this map shows where the moon’s shadow will cross the U.S. during the 2024 total solar eclipse. NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio

An estimated 31.6 million people live in the path of totality, which begins in Mexico and moves northeast, covering 15 U.S. states before crossing into Canada. That’s more than double the 12 million who lived in the 2017 eclipse’s path. Totality will also last longer this year, up to 4 minutes and 28 seconds, versus 2 minutes and 42 seconds in 2017.

Madhulika Guhathakurta, the lead program scientist for NASA’s Living With a Star initiative, says observing a total eclipse is transformative: “It’s akin to the way astronauts describe their first trip to space. You’re just so in awe of nature.”

To view the solar eclipse, you’ll need proper equipment. The only time it’s safe to look at the sun without protection is during totality. Until the moon fully blocks out the sun, you should observe the partial eclipse through special eclipse glasses or solar viewers. Keep your gear on hand during totality, and put it back on when the sun starts to reappear.

Opt for equipment featuring solar filters approved by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which are about 100,000 times darker than everyday sunglasses. The American Astronomical Society’s (AAS) website includes a list of manufacturers that have certified their products meet the ISO 12312-2 standard.

If you purchase equipment from other outlets, double-check that their merchandise meets the ISO’s requirements. Beware of cheap glasses sold on online marketplaces like Amazon. As scholars Yao “Henry” Jin and Simone Peinkofer write for the Conversation, “Deceptive counterfeit products have infiltrated retail supply chains. And some of them can pose a threat to your health.” To test if your glasses are safe for eclipse viewing, try them on both indoors and outside on a sunny day. Per an AAS statement, you shouldn’t be able to see anything besides very bright light, which will appear faint.

Whether you’re a stargazing neophyte or a dedicated astronomer, this gear will help you make the most of the eclipse.

Eclipse glasses and handheld viewers

Paper Bill Nye eclipse glasses
The plastic Bill Nye eclipse glasses come with two sets of paper glasses (pictured here). American Paper Optics / The Planetary Society

Eclipse glasses look like hybrids of 3D-movie glasses and sunglasses. As Guhathakurta explains, these glasses have the added protection of a solar filter. While sunglasses only block ultraviolet rays, eclipse glasses also cut off visible light.

With the eclipse just over a week away, glasses are in short supply. Rainbow Symphony, one of the AAS’s vetted sellers, has sold out of most small packs, though bulk options in the 100- to 500-pack range are still available. American Paper Optics has a broader range available, including a pack of 25 glasses priced at $50 and a sturdier set of plastic glasses adorned with Bill Nye’s silhouette. DayStar Filters is offering a five-pack of paper glasses for $24.95.

If you’re having trouble finding a reputable seller, consider reaching out to museums, planetariums, astronomy clubs and even your local library, Rick Fienberg, project manager of the AAS’s Solar Eclipse Task Force, tells Forbes. “Check with your local high schools and your local college astronomy department—there are a lot of places that are going to be having eclipse events, and they’re all going to have glasses—they won’t all be free, but many will be,” he adds. Now through April 7, the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. will be handing out free glasses every day between 12 and 4 p.m.

Looking for an alternative to paper or plastic glasses and high-tech binoculars? Consider these 3- by 5-inch handheld viewers that can be easily passed around in crowds.

Binoculars and telescopes

A pair of Celestron EclipSmart 10x25 Solar Binoculars
A pair of Celestron EclipSmart 10x25 Solar Binoculars Celestron

Binoculars and telescopes are pricier than eclipse glasses and handheld viewers but can be worth the investment. They feature a higher magnification, which can result in a shakier image—as power increases, the equipment becomes more sensitive to its holder’s small hand movements.

Binoculars are rated with two numbers. The first is the magnification power, while the second is aperture (the diameter of the front lens, measured in millimeters). If you’re buying a pair of binoculars and plan to use them for other astronomy viewing, the bigger the aperture, the better, but remember that bigger lenses also mean heavier equipment.

The following options offer a range of viewing strengths. Celestron’s EclipSmart binoculars feature nonremovable solar filters, so you’ll only be able to use them for solar viewing. A 10x25 pair (10x magnification and 25-millimeter aperture) costs $37.99, while a 10x42 pair costs $69.95. A cheaper option is Lunt’s mini SunOculars. A 6x30 pair costs $24.95.

An Orion Scenix 7x50 Binocular Eclipse Plus Kit, featuring removable solar filters
An Orion Scenix 7x50 Binocular Eclipse Plus Kit, featuring removable solar filters Orion

If you prefer binoculars with removable solar filters, Orion has a $134.99 7x50 set that works for both solar viewing and nighttime stargazing. Once you remove the solar filters, the binoculars will operate like a normal pair.

Telescopes offer some of the best eclipse views, but you’ll pay more for added detail if you want an advanced model. One option is the $99.95 Celestron EclipSmart telescope. It offers 18x magnification, 50-millimeter aperture and nonremovable solar filters.

A pricier choice is the iOptron 80-millimeter White Light Solar Scope. Designed for on-the-go use, the $179 model features a detachable solar filter, making it suitable for daytime and nighttime use.

Add-on solar filters

A pair of add-on solar filters for 70-millimeter binoculars
A pair of add-on solar filters for 70-millimeter binoculars Daystar Filters

Another category of eclipse viewing gear is add-on filters. These can be attached to binoculars, telescopes and cameras not originally designed for solar viewing and are mainly used by experienced observers. Like eclipse-specific gear, solar filters prevent retinal damage. They also protect your equipment’s optics from the heat of the sun, as the intensity of an eclipse can damage gear designed for nighttime observing.

Filters are typically made of metal on glass (sturdy but most expensive), aluminized polyester film or black polymer (also used in eclipse glasses). Daystar Filters sells a pack of two 70-millimeter binocular lens filters for $29.95. Thousand Oaks Optical and Orion offer higher-end filters ranging in price from $22 to $150-plus.

Pinhole projectors

How to Make a Box Pinhole Projector

If you want to view the eclipse without spending money on special equipment, you’re in luck. Stand with your back to the sun, and use your hands, a hole-punched index card or even a patch of leaves to create a tiny opening. As sunlight flows through the empty space, an image of the sun will project onto a nearby surface. For more detailed instructions, visit the AAS’s pinhole projection page.

Guhathakurta’s final words of advice are simple: During the partial eclipse, “do not look at the sun without glasses on, but absolutely look at the total solar eclipse without glasses on. These are two binary events. When you wear glasses and you cannot see anything anymore, that’s totality.”

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