The Newnan Times-Herald


Area astronomy buffs say glasses concerns mostly unnecessary

  • By Winston Skinner
  • |
  • Aug. 19, 2017 - 4:53 AM

While there has been much concern about eclipse glasses and their safety, local astronomy buffs say the concerns are overblown.

There may well be glasses which do not meet the correct safety regulations on the market, but many of the glasses that have been recalled are perfectly fine, according to Steven “Smitty” Smith and Stephen W. Ramsden.

Smith is an amateur astronomer from Moreland. He is among the organizers of an eclipse watch event at Moreland United Methodist Church on Monday afternoon.

Ramsden, director and founder of the Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project in Atlanta, says concerns about the glasses seem to stem from a Washington Post story on Aug. 4.

The Charlie Bates Astronomy Project is loaning 50 pair of glasses for Moreland’s event on Monday. “They are manufactured by Rainbow Symphony, in business for 40 years,” Smith said. Attendees are also welcome to bring their own glasses.

Ramsden noted the Post story featured an interview with someone from with the American Astronomical Society and their quotes about "recently changing their eyewear safety advice" including that "the ISO certification on the glasses isn't enough anymore with all the fakes out there” created a firestorm of concern.

Ramsden said online retailer Amazon “appears to have reacted to this story and its subsequent sharing everywhere on local TV stations and social media.” Amazon ultimately decided to refund money to purchasers – many of whom had “purchased perfectly safe solar glasses,” he said.

“This horrible situation has led to hundreds of school systems across the country cancelling any outdoor viewing events even when they have already purchased or been donated perfectly safe solar viewing glasses,” Ramsden said.

Coweta County officials decided to extend the school day Monday for eclipse events but did decide not to distribute glasses after the Amazon recall. Some Coweta schools will have glasses for use by students and staff.

The decision by Amazon “and the resulting hysteria from liability fearing bureaucrats has absolutely decimated … many vendors financially and morally while simultaneously ruining one of the greatest experiences anyone can have in their lifetimes by watching a total or partial solar eclipse with their own eyes,” Ramsden said.

“The real losers here are students,” Ramsden said. “The further understanding of the beauty of our natural world gained by this event has been robbed from hundreds of thousands of students simply to protect one company from imagined liability.”

The American Astronomical Society has offered a simple test for whether solar eclipse glasses are safe:

“You shouldn’t be able to see anything through a safe solar filter except the sun itself or something comparably bright, such as the sun reflected in a mirror, a sunglint off shiny metal, the hot filament of an unfrosted incandescent light bulb, a bright halogen light bulb, a bright-white LED flashlight – including the one on your smartphone, or an arc-welder’s torch. All such sources should appear quite dim through a solar viewer.”