Economic Policy • Analysis
The next eclipse is on Mars
The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

You’ll need special glasses to see the solar eclipse. Here’s where to get them free.

'Totality! Totality!': Astronomer goes bananas watching eclipse during flight (Video: Mike Kentrianakis/American Astronomical Society for Alaska Airlines)

If you plan to watch the eclipse in August, you’re going to need glasses to see it. Obviously (and this is common sense, but for some reason we still need to say it because people actually do this) you should not look directly at the sun without very strong protective eye wear. Not just sunglasses, though — lenses that were designed specifically to filter out enough of the light that it doesn’t burn a hole through your retinas.

“Like a magnifying glass on a leaf when you were a kid,” an optometrist tweeted at me. Ouch.

Now that the preachy warning is over, here’s the awesome news: Libraries all over the country are giving out free eclipse-viewing glasses. Two million of them!

Map of participating libraries
Note: It looks like we may have overloaded the STAR_Net Libraries site. If you get a blank page, check back! Sorry, STAR_Net…

People directly in the path of the eclipse are going to see something incredible. A total eclipse is basically indescribable. Even astronomers have a hard time coming up with the words to explain what a total solar eclipse feels like. These are the kinds of things that, before modern astronomy, would make people think the world was ending.

For everyone outside the path, you’re still going to be able to see a partial eclipse, and you’re still going to need these glasses.

Somewhere around 4,800 libraries and bookmobiles are giving away the glasses, which are being provided in part by the Moore Foundation. You can see which libraries are participating on this map.

This story has been revised to better explain how looking at the sun for a long period of time will damage your eyes.