Protective eyewear to watch the Aug. 21 solar eclipse is on sale in stores and online now or you can wait a few weeks and try to snag a free pair.
Midlands tourism officials are finalizing plans to give away 100,000 pairs of the glasses with lenses that allow viewing the eclipse safely.
“We’re still working out the distribution,” said Merritt McNeely, marketing director at the S.C. State Museum.
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Free glasses customized with local ad logos should be available by early August at a variety of places that will be publicized when the spectacles become available, she said.
Some area hotels also will offer the glasses free to guests who come for the eclipse. The eyewear will be included in amenities that weekend at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Northeast Richland, sales manager Amber Martin said.
If you’re impatient, the eyewear is on sale at the museum for $1.95 a pair plus tax.
The glasses are necessary to safely watch nearly all of the three-hour natural phenomena in the sky, experts say.
Ordinary sunglasses are inadequate because sunlight is intense, they say.
Staring at the sun any time can damage retinas and create vision problems, said Matthew Whitehouse, observatory manager at the museum.
“Usually, we don’t look at the sun much.” he said. “But in an eclipse, we want to look at it much more, so having the right eyewear becomes huge.”
The only period it will be safe to watch the eclipse without eyewear is the approximately 2 minutes and 30 seconds when the moon totally blacks out the sun, he said.
Rainbow Symphony, one protective eyewear maker, is gearing up for a last-minute rush for the glasses, company operations manager Sophie Margolis said.
The Los Angeles company put several orders on hold to catch up with demand that includes those sent to the Columbia area, she said.
Margolis plans to use the glasses herself to watch the eclipse in Oregon as it starts its journey across 12 states.
She’s seen one and predicts the upcoming eclipse “will be beautiful” for those watching.
Tim Flach: 803-771-8483