Don’t turn blind eye to eclipse safety

By: By Scott Bigelow -

LUMBERTON — It is critical for Robeson County viewers of the Aug. 21 solar eclipse to use approved eyewear, according to Ken Brandt, director of the Robeson County Planetarium.

“Normally, we don’t look at the sun and avoid eye damage from solar radiation,” Brandt said. “Robeson County will get a partial eclipse — 97 percent — so people are tempted to look at the sun, but it’s still dangerous.”

The eclipse on that Monday will bring total darkness from Oregon to the western tip of North Carolina and across South Carolina. An eclipse happens when the sun is obscured as the moon crosses between the Earth and sun.

Depending on where you are standing in Robeson County, the partial eclipse will be viewed, barring clouds, beginning at about 1 p.m., with the maximum eclipse about 2:46 p.m., and the entire event lasting about three hours. The county will be thrown into a twilight.

Inexpensive, ISO-approved protective glasses must be worn to avoid damage or even blindness from the sun’s radiation.

Robesonians may have difficulty finding eclipse glasses, which are generally made of paper and inexpensive. Both Walmart and Lowe’s in Lumberton had glasses, but are sold out. They are available online.

Thousands of Americans will be on the road to view the eclipse, which will be your last chance until the next one in 2044.

Here are some tips for safely viewing the eclipse:

— Always supervise children using solar filters.

— Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the bright sun.

— After looking at the sun, turn away and remove your filter — do not remove it while looking at the sun.

— Do not look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, or other optical device; similarly, do not look at the sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewer — the concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eyes, causing serious injury.

— If you are within the path of totality, remove your solar filter only when the moon completely covers the sun’s bright face and it suddenly gets quite dark. Experience totality, then, as soon as the bright sun begins to reappear, replace your solar viewer to look at the remaining partial phases; and outside the path of totality, you must always use a safe solar filter to view the sun directly.

— If you normally wear eyeglasses, keep them on. Put your eclipse glasses on over them, or hold your hand-held viewer in front of them.

Two of the three shows on the eclipse at the Planetarium site are sold out. A 10 a.m. show on Aug. 17 has openings, but they are going quickly.

To make a reservation, call the Robeson County Planetarium at 910-671-6000, Ext. 3381. The planetarium is temporarily located at the Robeson County Partnership for Children on East Second Street after its building was flooded by Hurricane Matthew.

By Scott Bigelow

Scott Bigelow can be reached at 910-416-5649.

Scott Bigelow can be reached at 910-416-5649.