A few months ago, I ordered up a bunch of eclipse glasses and a solar filter for my camera, knowing they’d be hard to come by closer to the eclipse. I was determined to see the eclipse in all its glory, as I’ve been waiting to see it for years, well over a decade. Fortunately, thanks to some fortune, weather apps, great friends, and one awesome road trip, I did get to see the event of a lifetime, a total solar eclipse. Maybe you did too. Maybe you just saw the partial eclipse. Hopefully you either used a pinhole viewer or used some form of solar filter to do it. If you used solar glasses, you might be wondering what do do with them now. They’re good for eclipses, to see the sun go through phases like the moon with your own two eyes, but for anything else, they’re kind of useless. You can’t use them with binoculars or a telescope (the focused light of the sun would burn a hole in them before you could even realize you’re blind), and even when looking at the sun with the glasses, you can’t see the details like sunspots, granulation, or solar prominences that you can see with a good solar telescope. So why bother keeping them? Unless you’re an eclipse chaser and plan on checking out future eclipses, you probably don’t need them anymore. Why not donate them to someone who will?
“Boundaries vanish when we look skyward. One people, one sky.” That’s the motto of Astronomers Without Borders, an organization that aims to bring all people of the world together in their love of the night sky. However, as many people now know, the sky can be pretty wonderful during the daytime too. The goal of Astronomers Without Borders is to help those in more developed countries share with those in less developed nations, to help children discover the wonder of the universe. Financial donations buy telescopes, equipment, and, yes, eclipse glasses. Also, after using your eclipse glasses, you can donate them to Astronomers Without Borders, who will give them to schools in Asia and South America, where students can use them to see the solar eclipses in 2019.
I got to see the total solar eclipse. It was an experience unlike any other. I saw day turn to twilight, stars and planets in the daytime sky. I saw the grand clockwork of the universe, and felt both like a speck of dust, and like I was seeing further than anyone ever has, both insignificant and godlike, both terrified and in joyous awe. I look forward to chasing down the next solar eclipse. I hope everyone gets a chance to experience one at some point in their life, especially children, who may get a new sense of wonder and interest in science after witnessing the movement of the gargantuan celestial bodies in our solar system. If you’ve got extra glasses, or if you’re sure you’ll lose them by the next eclipse in 2024, be sure to donate them to Astronomers Without Borders, to give someone else a chance to witness the splendor of our solar system at play.