Question: Are “hand-made” or “home-made” solar filters or eclipse-viewing glasses safe to use?


Answer: When such glasses are produced by non-professional optical makers, there is no way to ensure that the glasses are produced adequately for safety of the eyes. THERE IS NO QUALITY CONTROL!


I CANNOT endorse any "hand-made" or "home-made" eclipse-viewing glasses, solar filters, or any other such equipment for viewing a solar eclipse that is not produced by professionals. The risk to eyesight is too great to take any chances on eclipse-viewing glasses produced by non-professional optical makers.


Special glasses or filters, specifically labeled and sold for safe viewing of a solar eclipse by private companies, are safe, PROVIDED these glasses are not damaged in any way and there are no small holes, or holes of any type, in the glasses. Before using any eclipse-viewing glasses, always check the eyepieces by holding them up to a bright light bulb, to see if you can find any small holes in either of the eyepieces. If it is noticed that such eclipse-viewing glasses are damaged in any way, or have any small holes in either eyepiece of the glasses, this pair of eclipse-viewing glasses should be discarded immediately.


Most eclipse-viewing glasses, produced by private companies, are usually sold at a relatively inexpensive price--usually around one or two dollars (American). This is certainly a small price to pay to ensure your eyes are safe when viewing an eclipse of the Sun. Some fit over the eyes as do eye-glasses; others are simply held over the eyes by a cardboard handle.


Companies which produce such eclipse-viewing glasses are aware of the dates and locations of upcoming solar eclipses. Hence, it is likely that they will produce many such eclipse-viewing glasses for sale in areas where a solar eclipse is expected.


To learn where to purchase eclipse-viewing glasses, contact the nearest public library, science museum, planetarium, college or university science department, or astronomy club. Somebody in one of these organizations should be able to help you find safe eclipse-viewing glasses for sale.


Another safe way to view a solar eclipse is by making a solar pinhole viewing box (never look through the pinhole at the Sun!). You can learn how to make such a box at these links:

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Additional references regarding safely viewing a solar eclipse (Courtesy: E.G. Canali)--


Observing Solar Eclipses Safely:

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Eclipse Filters – Time for an International Standard:

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B. Ralph Chou. "Solar Filter Safety." Sky & Telescope, volume 95. February 1998: pages 36-40.


For more information, or a clarification, send your request to the following electronic mail address:
                                      < >.
Editor’s Note: This astronomically-related question was answered by Glenn A. Walsh, who served as
Astronomical Observatory Coordinator and a Planetarium Lecturer at Pittsburgh’s original
Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Mr. Walsh also served as a Life Trustee, on the Board of Trustees, of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall in Carnegie, Pennsylvania in the late 1990s, including one year as the Library’s Treasurer.
Today, Mr. Walsh is Project Director of a not-for-profit organization, Friends of the Zeiss, which works for the preservation and continued functionality of the historic equipment and artifacts of a
pioneer in the history of the development of planetaria and museums of the physical sciences, Pittsburgh's
Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science, including the Zeiss II Planetarium Projector,
now the oldest operable major planetarium projector in the world !
Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < >
Electronic Mail - < > 
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh: 
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* Adler Planetarium, Chicago: 
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* Astronomer & Optician John A. Brashear: 
  < > 
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries: 
  < > 
* Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh: 
  < >

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2009 July

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History of Andrew Carnegie and Carnegie Libraries

Historic Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh

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