With the first total solar eclipse in 38 years just a few days away, the demand for eclipse glasses has made them pretty much impossible to find.
Wal-Mart locations in Sacramento are sold out and will not be restocking the glasses, which had been flying off the shelves for $1 a piece. Lowe’s is also sold out. Target is only carrying the glasses online, but you might not get them shipped in time. And every Ace Hardware location in the city is out too.
“If someone has a pair at this point, it’s the lottery,” said Elliott Moore, assistant manager of the Capitol Ace Hardware on I Street.
Moore said he’s seen teachers coming in and buying the glasses in bulk for their classes.
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Vendors selling on Amazon are back-ordered until Aug. 21, and a pack of five will cost $59.95.
The Powerhouse Science Center initially sold out on Monday, but received another shipment of 250 pairs of glasses Wednesday. Those sold out in two hours, said Shahnez Van Deventer, director of marketing and development.
You can still make your own eclipse viewers at the museum with the same kind of film used in eclipse glasses. The workshop will take place in the museum’s design lab from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The price of materials is included in museum admission, which is $8 for adults and $7 for children.
On Monday, you can view the eclipse at the museum through a group viewer, which is about the size of a poster board, Van Deventer said. “Five or six people can stand there and see the eclipse that way.”
Looking directly at the sun without authentic eclipse glasses can cause vision loss or permanent blindness, according to the American Astronomical Society. The two minutes of complete totality, the point at which the moon’s shadow covers the sun, is the only time you can stare directly at the sun without eclipse glasses, the society says. But Sacramento is not within the path of totality, so you need to protect your eyes.
In Sacramento, the moon will start to cover the sun at 9:02 a.m. on Aug. 21. Maximum coverage, about 79 percent, will be at 10:17 a.m. The eclipse will be over at 11:39 a.m.
Solar eclipse glasses, which look like 3-D glasses, use a darker lens that meets the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard for filtering the sun’s rays. The high demand has led to a rash of counterfeit glasses, which could cause vision damage if used while staring at the sun. Amazon recently issued refunds for potentially fake glasses, according to Time magazine. Authentic eclipse glasses will have labels saying they meet the recommended standard.
You can also still use a pinhole camera, which directs the sun’s light onto the ground through a tiny hole in a piece of paper so the progress of the eclipse can be watched indirectly. A pasta strainer or colander will also work as a pinhole camera, Gray said.
Another option is to attend one of the many viewing events planned around the region.
The Sacramento State physics and astronomy department will host a solar eclipse viewing event on Monday on top of the American River levee north of the Hornet bookstore. They have 24 pairs of eclipse glasses and welding glasses that meet a shade-14 standard for people to share, said Rodolfo Barniol Duran, assistant professor of physics and one of the event’s organizers.
“Only shade 14 or higher are safe to wear for viewing the eclipse,” he said. “Anything less will not provide enough protection.”
Telescopes with solar filters and pinhole cameras will also be available at the event.
Other viewing events will be hosted on the steps of the State Capitol at 9 a.m., the Mary L. Stephens Davis Branch Library and the Arthur F. Turner Community Library in West Sacramento at 9:30 a.m.
“Hopefully people will remember this the next time a total eclipse comes through the United States in 2024,” Gray said. “They have some time to prepare.”