CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - As interest in one of the greatest astronomical events in a lifetime continues to grow, Southeast Missouri State University, in partnership with Eye Care Specialists, LLC, is educating the regional community about the importance of safely viewing the Aug. 21 eclipse.
"This is an amazing astronomical event for the University and local community to share together," said Dr. Peggy Hill, professor of physics at Southeast. "To fully witness and appreciate this phenomenon, it's important to protect your eyes when directly or indirectly viewing the eclipse."
Cape Girardeau will experience totality (darkness as the moon passes in front of the sun) for one minute and 45 seconds starting at 1:20:21 PM (CDT). To prepare for the sight of a lifetime, the University encourages everyone to view the eclipse safely.
Thanks to a sponsorship by Eye Care Specialists, LLC in Cape Girardeau, Southeast will make specially manufactured solar viewing glasses available to University students, faculty and staff, alumni, local school children and visitors from the regional community. Eclipse glasses provide a safe, direct view of the total solar eclipse.
"Anytime you look at the sun, you run the risk of damaging the retina, the light sensitive lining at the back of your eye," said Dr. David J. Westrich, a Southeast alumnus and retinal specialist at Eye Care Specialists, LLC in Cape Girardeau. "When staring directly at the sun without proper protection, a solar burn can occur resulting in a permanent blind spot in your central vision."
According to the American Astronomical Society (AAS), glasses certified to meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard for safe direct viewing of the sun should be labeled as such. However, there have been reports of counterfeit eclipse glasses labeled as ISO-certified when in fact they are not. NASA suggests buying from one of four reputable vendors to ensure glasses are safe for viewing. SEclipse glasses were supplied by Rainbow Symphony, one of the four companies in the United States certified by an accredited testing laboratory to meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard for such products.
Certified eclipse glasses have special solar filters making it safe to view the partial eclipse before and after the total eclipse.
"It is only safe to view a solar eclipse with ISO-certified eclipse glasses," Westrich said. "It is also important to know, regular UV protection from sunglasses is not sufficient protection and it is never safe to look at the eclipse through a magnification lens such as a camera, binoculars or a telescope unless the device has a solar filter."
Hill added, "You can wear the special solar glasses over your regular glasses, but never use them in combination with any other optical instruments, such as binoculars or telescopes. To view the sun through binoculars or telescopes requires a special filter that fits over the front of the telescope or binoculars, and is specifically designed for that purpose."
Sunglasses, smoked glass, exposed film or CD/DVDs as filters will not provide proper protection during the solar eclipse. While these objects may reduce the amount of visible sunlight the eye receives, they don't significantly reduce the amount of UV light or x-rays.
Eclipse glasses also are necessary during a partial solar eclipse which occurs before and after a total solar eclipse. It is only safe to view the eclipse without these glasses during the totality phase.
All eclipse glasses should be checked to make sure there are no pinholes or scratches on them that would let light pass through the lenses. Eclipse glasses should be put on before looking at the sun and taken off after looking away.
There are a number of ways to indirectly view the sun. All involve some form of projecting the sun's image onto a viewing surface, such as a pinhole camera.
"Just be sure that when using a pinhole viewer, children do not try to look at the sun through the pinhole," Hill said. "Look at the shadow it casts on the ground.
"It is always fun to watch the shadows that a partial eclipse produces," she said. "This can be observed by looking at the sunlight that falls between the leaves of a nearby shade tree, through your laced fingers, or by using pinhole punched in a card."
Southeast Missouri State University will provide eclipse glasses to students, faculty and guests.
Prior to eclipse day, glasses will be placed in all residence hall rooms during opening week for on-campus students. Glasses also will be available at the University Center Information Desk, Kent Library Circulation Desk, Textbook Rental and the Student Recreation Center Services Desk, and be distributed at the University's Welcome Back Picnic Aug. 20 at the Show Me Center. Southeast students can pick up solar glasses at the designated locations with their Redhawks ID. Solar glasses will be available during the events at Houck Field and River Campus for members of the University community and the general public while supplies last.
Faculty and staff will receive their eclipse glasses through campus mail the week before fall classes begin.
On Aug. 21, glasses will be distributed at SEclipse activities on Normal Avenue between Academic Hall and Kent Library, and at Houck Field, the River Campus, Cape College Center and in the offices at Southeast's regional campuses in Sikeston, Kennett and Malden, Missouri. Glasses also will be available on Southeast's shuttles.
For more information about SEclipse safety and tips, please visit http://eclipse.semo.edu/safety.