Where to buy your eclipse glasses before the total solar eclipse on August 21

Ever since you were a kid, your parents probably told you not to look directly at the sun. The only issue with that is that if you want to watch the upcoming total solar eclipse on August 21, you kind of need to stare straight in our closest star's direction.

Luckily, there are literally dozens of eclipse glasses you can use to protect your eyes from the sun's strong rays. But knowing which ones to buy, whether they'll actually protect your eyes, and where to buy them can get a little murky.

SEE ALSO: August is an awesome month for skywatching: Here's how to make the most of it

If you're itching to watch the eclipse, but don't know where to begin looking for the right pair of protective glasses, we've got you covered.

RELATED: States where you can see the total solar eclipse of 2017

States where you can see the total solar eclipse of 2017
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States where you can see the total solar eclipse of 2017

Salem's the first sizable U.S. city with a chance to catch the eclipse when it hits Oregon.

Source: NASA

The eclipse will hit residents in Idaho next, with an opportunity to see totality in Idaho Falls. In Boise? Drive north a bit for your chance at totality.

Source: NASA

The eclipse sweeps across most of Wyoming, with Casper perfectly placed along the center of the path -- which means the eclipse will last longer there than on the outer edges.

Source: NASA

In Montana, but don't want to leave the state to get your eclipse fix? Totality will be visible from a tiny sliver of the Southwest corner of the state, but it's probably easier to just drive all the way to Idaho or Wyoming instead.

Source: NASA

Plenty of Nebraskans will have the chance to catch totality -- as the moon's shadow passes from the northwest corner of the state to the southeast corner.

Source: NASA

Like Montana, the total eclipse path will scrape across the tiniest portion of Iowa, but again, your best bet will likely be to travel into a state to your south or west instead. 

Source: NASA

You can catch the total eclipse from Kansas too if you head up to the northeast corner.

Source: NASA

Folks in Kansas City will get to see the total eclipse in Missouri, along with those in Columbia as it heads southeast across the state. St. Louis residents might need to drive a bit to see the total show.

Source: NASA

Residents of southern Illinois will get a total eclipse treat too, but anyone north of Belleville will need to drive to catch the big sight.

Source: NASA

Most folks in southwest Kentucky will get a chance to see the moon's shadow too.

Source: NASA

The eclipse will sweep across a big swath of Tennessee next, hitting Nashville and sweeping between Knoxville and Chattanooga.

Source: NASA

The northeast corner of Georgia is in the eclipse's path too. 

Source: NASA

Only a handful of North Carolinians will be able to see the total eclipse from their homes, as it hits a tiny portion of the southwest corner of the state.

Source: NASA

Source: NASA

Check out the entire eclipse's path!

Source: NASA


Why do I need solar eclipse glasses anyway?

The total eclipse will cut across the contiguous United States from coast to coast, giving millions of people around the country a chance to see the moon pass in front of and blot out the sun. While it's safe to look at the sun when the moon is completely covering it during the eclipse, it's not safe to look at it at any other time.

If you're planning to watch the solar eclipse in person, you need to be sure to pick up some high-quality eclipse glasses.

A map of the path of the eclipse.

A map of the path of the eclipse.

Image: NASA

You should be able to look up at the sun and watch as the moon slowly moves in front of the star with a good pair of eclipse glasses. Without the glasses, you could do serious harm to your eyesight, and on top of that, you just won't have a very good view of the rare eclipse.

The total eclipse isn't something you want to miss, either. This marks the first time a total eclipse has graced skies above the lower 48 states since 1979.

Are all glasses the same?

Not every pair of tinted lenses will protect your eyes.

The first thing you need to look for in a pair of glasses is a special-purpose safe solar filter, not an average polarized filter or color filter. You should also avoid any eclipse glasses that are older than three years, have scratches, or are wrinkled. And never attempt to make your own solar filter.

Solar filters are many more times darker than the darkest sunglasses you own. The filters are made to let you safely look directly at the sun by reducing the levels of harmful ultraviolet and infrared radiation hitting your eyes.

As eclipse fever hits the U.S., it's more important than ever to be sure that you're getting real eclipse glasses, not the fakes that have been popping up recently, the American Astronomical Society (AAS) said.

The AAS did recommend that people look for the ISO 12312-2 safety standard on their eclipse glasses, but after a recent influx of counterfeit eclipse glasses, the organization is now recommending people buy from one of the venders on its curated list.

Some of the recommended manufacturers on the list include Baader Planetarium, Rainbow Symphony, Thousand Oaks Optical, TSE 17, and American Paper Optics. There are dozens more out there, but just remember you can no longer simply trust the ISO 12312-2 certification. Be sure to research the quality and rating of your glasses before using them.

NASA is also warning skywatchers about the fake eclipse glasses that have flooded the market.

Check for the ISO number.

Check for the ISO number.

Image: nasa

Where can you buy them?

Whether you're planning a huge watch party or you just want to walk outside and take a look, it's time to start planning ahead. With this in mind, here are a few places you can get a free pair:

  • Mystery Science and Google are donating 15,000 pairs of glasses to elementary schools.

  • NASA Library Initiative and the Moore Foundation are providing free glasses to be picked up at 4,800 local libraries across the nation.

  • Astronomers Without Borders is donating glasses to veteran's hospitals, homeless youth shelters, and other underserved communities.

For those of you who can't get your hands on a free pair and like to shop in person, here's where to find your glasses.

And for the rest of you who would rather purchase your glasses online, here's your list. Keep in mind that a lot of these vendors sell their goods on Amazon, too.

Now that you know what you're looking for, be sure to pick up your eclipse glasses as soon as you can. The big eclipse is only a couple weeks away, and you don't want to miss out on it due a lack of planning.

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