The 125-year-old Cincinnati Observatory is buzzing this week, with astronomer hopefuls like Anne and Joel Bayou stopping by to find eclipse glasses before they all run out.
"My mom wanted two, and my sister wanted two, and I have a friend who couldn't find them anywhere," Anne said.
And that's the bad news: Stores everywhere are running out of the official NASA-approved glasses. CLICK HERE to see what stores may have them in stock.
Old-fashioned alternative to glasses
Inside the observatory, director Dean Regas is gearing up for the big day Aug. 21.
But even he expects to run out of glasses at any time.
So he suggests alternative ways of watching, such as an old-fashioned pinhole projector, the way millions of schoolchildren watched the last solar eclipse back in 1979.
Regas says anyone can make a safe pinhole projector with a cardboard box, or even just two pieces of cardboard.
"What you do is put a pinhole in a piece of paper or a box, let the light come through the hole to the ground, and watch the image on the ground," Regas explained. "If done correctly, it should make a picture of the eclipse, and you can watch the sun get smaller and smaller in real time."
The smartphone alternative
Regas says he is hearing from many people who plan to record the eclipse on their smartphone, perhaps to post on Facebook.
But experts say pointing your phone at the sun for several minutes might not be the best idea.
"If you have your camera phone pointed at the sun for long periods of time, it could damage the electronics inside of it," Regas said.
NASA says it's OK to snap a few quick photos of the eclipse. Apple has said there is no issue taking photos of the sun with iPhones.
But if you are shooting the sun for more than a few seconds, NASA suggests placing a darkening filter or eclipse glasses over your phone's camera to prevent any possible sun "burn-in" that could leave a white dot on future photos.
"Hold that filter in front of the camera," Regas said, "and that will help out a lot."
If you don't have any way of filtering the sun, tech blogs suggest you lower the amount of light your phone allows in.
On an iPhone, look for a picture of the sun next to the yellow focus square. With your finger, drag the sun down the screen, which will darken the picture and let less light in.
The concerns may be overblown. But when it comes to a $500 phone, Regas says better safe than sorry.
That way you don't waste your money.
“Don't Waste Your Money” is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. (“Scripps”).
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