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Myths about Solar Observing

Ranger Hat
Rangers shouldn't use their straw hat to look at the sun...and neither should you!

Myth: I can use my polarized sunglasses to look at the Sun for just brief moments.

It is NEVER safe to look directly at the Sun with any type of sunglasses! The solar filters found in "eclipse glasses" are the only glasses appropriate to look directly at the Sun.

Myth: At the maximum, I can use my naked eyes to see the eclipse at totality.

It is NEVER safe to look directly at the Sun without approved solar-viewing devices! This myth is related to total eclipses. A total eclipse is when the Sun's disk is completely covered and the sky goes dark. During this brief moment of darkness is the only time the Sun can be directly viewed—only for a moment, however, as the corona of the Sun can still be seen and is extremely bright. This is never true for annular or partial solar eclipses!

Myth: I can use a piece of Mylar to look directly at the Sun.

Yes, Mylar filters made to look at the Sun are commercially available. However, Mylar from a broken Mylar balloon is not adequate, as it may have a semi-porous coating. Mylar filters specifically made for solar-observing applications are made to a higher quality standard and are darker than Mylar in products not designed for solar observing.

Myth: I can wear welder's goggles to protect my eyes when I look through my small telescope, binoculars, or camera's viewfinder.

It is NEVER safe to look through a camera, binoculars, or a telescope at the Sun without approved solar filters securely attached to the front of the objective lens(es), as these devises are designed to magnify and focus the intensity of the Sun at the eyepieces. Therefore it is important that the Sun's light is safely filtered where the light first enters the device.

Myth: I can use my straw hat to look at the Sun.

A method known as "pinhole projection" can be done through any pin-sized hole. It is important to focus and project the Sun's image onto the ground or another surface to see the Sun's disk. It will appear white with a "bite" out of it during the eclipse. You may even see a sunspot or two on the Sun's disk. But you CANNOT look through your hat directly at the sun!

Last Updated: February 12, 2012