ST. GEORGE — Just in case today is the first time you have ventured out of a cave or an isolated cabin in the woods, you should be aware that there will be a total solar eclipse on Monday. Although Southern Utah won’t be in the path of totality, the region will still be treated to a spectacular partial eclipse.
However, this doesn’t change the fact that anyone attempting to view the eclipse should use some form of protection, either solar eclipse glasses, a No. 14 welder’s mask or failing all else, a pinhole viewer.
According to the NASA eclipse webpage, the first point of contact for Monday’s eclipse will be at Lincoln Beach, Oregon, at 9:05 a.m. PDT.
Totality begins there at 10:16 a.m. PDT. Over the next hour and a half, it will cross through Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and North and South Carolina. The total eclipse will end near Charleston, South Carolina, at 2:48 p.m. EDT. From there the lunar shadow leaves the United States at 4:09 EDT. Its longest duration will be near Carbondale, Illinois, where the sun will be completely covered for two minutes and 40 seconds.
Southern Utah will be in the 70-80 percent of totality region. The maximum eclipse in the region is estimated to take place at 11:30 a.m.
Previous to the 2012 annular solar eclipse, Dr. Paul Gooch of SouthWest Vision in St. George told St. George News that looking at the sun, even briefly, with the naked eye, through sunglasses, through unfiltered camera, telescope and other magnification lenses can cause irreparable damage to your eyes.
“The temptation is to think, ‘Oh I can look at it with my sunglasses because my lenses are dark,’” Gooch said. “That’s the precisely wrong thing to do.”
“The center part of your vision, the macula, is the most sensitive part of your vision. (It delivers) your ability to see detail and your focus when you look straight at something comes from the macula,” Gooch said. “It has a high concentration of photo receptors, everything is finely ordered. As a matter of fact, to stare at the sun leaves a central blank spot in your vision. So in the most severe cases of this, similar to macular degeneration, if they view (the sun) wrong they wouldn’t be able to see faces, read fine print.”
Solar viewing glasses have lenses that are actually metallic. Gooch said it’s almost like looking through tin foil.
Solar viewing glasses are a must to avoid irreparable damage to the eye. However, unless you’re a school-aged kid attending one of the many schools where glasses are being provided, this late in the game, many are scrambling unsuccessfully to find them.
While SouthWest Vision had glasses for sale in 2012, a recent prerecorded message at the office said they are unfortunately sold out. The message recommended trying a No. 14 welder’s mask – if one has access – or creating a pinhole viewer.
The offices of the city of St. George told St. George News that they were recommending people contact their optometrists.
In Cedar City, an eclipse event at the Main Street Park will take place starting at 9 a.m., and the glasses will be given out on a first-come-first-served basis. The event is being sponsored by the Library in the Park in partnership with Southern Utah Space Foundation and Ashcroft Observatory. Steve Decker, director of the library, said they have 1,000 glasses and that he believes Southern Utah University will be bringing an additional 500. There will also be solar telescopes at the event.
Various Facebook posts have listed certain Maverik convenience stores and Hurst General Store as selling the glasses, but almost as soon as the posts go up, someone comments saying they are sold out.
On Tuesday, Cedar Breaks National Monument and Kolob Canyons were selling solar eclipse cards – similar to the glasses but without the arm – but as of Friday, they were sold out with no plans of getting more.
Southern Utah Eye Care recommended checking Amazon and ordering next day shipping if you are really that desperate to watch it live. The American Astronomical Society has offered the following list of reputable brands and vendors.
Another good option is to watch the eclipse online at any number of websites broadcasting the event.
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