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©Igor Zh./Shutterstock
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The Most Important Thing to Pack for 2017's Total Solar Eclipse

Picture of Nadia Elysse
US Editorial Team Lead
Updated: 15 August 2017
Whether you’re just headed outside your house or traveling to one of the many prime locations on the “path of totality” to view the Aug. 21 solar eclipse, don’t forget to protect your eyes.

“Depending on the sky conditions, it only takes about a minute and a half for your eyes to be permanently damaged, and the damage is cumulative, meaning you don’t have to stare at the sun without looking away for it to be harmful — you may just be taking quick glances, but it’s still damaging your eye,” Angela Fritz of the Washington Post says.

It’s being called the “Great American Eclipse,” with people traveling from all around the world to catch a glimpse. It will be the first total eclipse in the United States since 1979 and science nerds and everyday Joes alike are pretty excited. There are old-school atlases, apps, and “sunoculars” being sold across the country in preparation. But the most important item on your solar eclipse must-buy list, doctors warn, should be protective eyewear.

Special solar eclipse sunglasses are selling out at major retailers including Walmart, REI, and Best Buy. Amazon still has a few available. But if you don’t want to pay money for eyewear for the 14-state event, there are millions of free pairs available for pick-up at your local library.

“With support from NASA, Google, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Space Science Institute’s STAR_Net initiative has distributed more than 2 million ISO-compliant safe solar eclipse glasses to more than 6,900 libraries all across the U.S.,” the American Astronomical Society said.

Eye damage, or solar retinopathy, from looking directly at the sun during the eclipse could be permanent. The intensity of the sun coming in contact with the human eye, even for just a few seconds, has been compared to holding a magnifying glass over a leaf—it’s going to burn.

“Just like your mom always told you: ‘You don’t look at the sun.’ Next Monday, it’s no different,” optometrist Dr. Luke Wagoner told WSLS10.