WCU astronomy professor urges eclipse watchers to check viewing glasses to ensure safety

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Press release courtesy of Bil Studenc, Director of the Office of Communications and Public Relations.

CULLOWHEE – Enrique Gomez, associate professor of physics and astronomy at Western Carolina University, is reminding members of the public who plan to view the solar eclipse that will darken Western North Carolina skies on Monday, Aug. 21, to use only certified eclipse glasses in order to prevent serious eye damage.

Eclipse-viewers should use only products that have been verified by an accredited testing laboratory as meeting the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard for solar-viewing glasses, Gomez said.

Gomez issued the reminder after examining a pair of eclipse glasses a colleague recently purchased online. “The glasses are not ISO-certified, and I’m rather alarmed by the low quality of this product,” he said.

Some eclipse glasses vendors are listing their products as being “ISO compliant,” but that does not mean the companies’ processes and products have gone through independent testing using standard methods required to achieve ISO certification, he said.

“There is no way to know for sure the level of risk that people are taking by using such glasses. In effect, they would be experimenting on their own eyes to see if any eye damage occurs,” Gomez said.

To ensure the glasses are safe, people should examine them to see if the filters on the glasses were manufactured by a reputable vendor that has achieved ISO certification and with which the scientific community has prior and positive experience, he said. The American Astronomical Society keeps a list of reputable vendors at the website https://eclipse.aas.org/resources/solar-filters, and members of the public should examine their glasses to see if the company named on the glasses is included on that list, he said.

Billed as the “Great American Eclipse,” the celestial phenomenon will be taking place in Cullowhee and surrounding areas on Aug. 21, which also is the first day of the fall semester at WCU. Classes will not be held between the hours of 1 and 3 p.m. that day to give students and faculty the opportunity to experience the event, and staff members who are able to be away from their desk or duty station will be allowed to step outside and observe the eclipse.

For more information, visit http://www.wcu.edu/solareclipse.