Get Ready for the Upcoming Solar Eclipse with Made in USA Glasses

By Jeffrey Bonior
Mar 15 2024 |
Photos courtesy American Paper Optics

Tennessee’s American Paper Optics makes the solar eclipse glasses used by NASA – and you can get a pair of your own, too.

The team at American Paper Optics has dubbed the total solar eclipse that will be visible on April 8 as the “Super Bowl of the Sky.”

The rare total solar eclipse is expected to darken the daytime skies over a large swath of North America as the moon moves directly between the earth and the sun.

From Mexico, across the U.S. and into Canada, the moon will obscure the daytime sunlight for as many as 4 ½ minutes in areas that are in the path of “totality.” Skies will turn completely dark. With this false sense of impending nighttime, birds may stop chirping. Nocturnal species might awaken to this false alarm. Temperatures could drop as many as 10 degrees for this brief period of time.

But to view this astronomical phenomenon, you will need to look through a special pair of eclipse glasses that allow you to observe the sun without damaging your eyes.

American Paper Optics is the largest manufacturer of eclipse glasses in the world, and makes glasses for everyone from NASA to Walmart to even Bill Nye the Science Guy. And the company still has plenty of inventory of the Made in U.S.A. glasses available for those who want to participate in Solar Super Bowl Monday.

The most recent solar eclipse, known as the Great American Eclipse, was in 2017. American Paper Optics sold 45 million glasses for that event and plans to sell 75 million pairs for the even more spectacular April 8 viewing.

“As you remember, in 2017 that was a huge deal, and based on that, we kind of learned a lot,” said American Paper Optics chief marketing officer Jason Lewin. “We decided when we came back for the 2024 eclipse that we were going to be bigger and better and build our inventory, because we are the largest manufacturer of eclipse glasses in the world.”

It is absolutely necessary to wear a pair of certified eclipse glasses when looking up at the sun to view the eclipse. Staring directly at the sun will wreak havoc on your vision and may even cause permanent blindness. That is why you will want to purchase a pair of ISO (International Organization for Standardization) 12312-2 compliant and CE certified eclipse glasses. You will find these official markings on all  American Paper Optic eclipse glasses.

Buying from a reputable company is essential. Purchasing your lenses on websites like Amazon, Temu or ebay is not recommended, because it is nearly impossible to document who manufactured the glasses and if they actually meet safety standards.

“I might be looking around online to see pricing and what other people are doing and I see so many glasses that have our names on them and they are actually Made in China,” Lewin said. “You know by the time the eclipse comes through, there’s always going to be people doing something to make a quick buck. When it comes to safety, that’s an issue for us. But I’m not surprised.

“In 2017, the one good thing that happened with this is that Amazon had a recall and issued refunds because they could not tell if some of the glasses they sold were good or bad. They must be ISO certified and as you know anybody can just copy our certifications and slap that and Made in U.S.A on them.

“It’s unfortunate but there is only so much we can do. Our whole thing now is just in terms of educating people. While there are other honest American companies making glasses, we just say buy from us because we are the people who make the glasses for NASA and that kind of thing.”

In addition to the millions of eclipse glasses American Paper Optics manufactures for NASA, it handles thousands of other large accounts as well.

“The Moore Foundation is a group that wanted to provide the glasses for about 10,000 libraries so we manufactured 5 million glasses for them,” Lewin said. “And then you’ve got people like Warby Parker who are giving out a lot to their customers and organizations. We make the glasses for the American Astronomical Society. We have a deal with Bill Nye the Science Guy. There’s also Walmart and Lowes which are big retailers.”

American Paper Optics manufactures its solar eclipse glasses at its facility in Bartlett, Tenn. a suburb of Memphis. Normally there are 35 people manufacturing the 3D, polarized and specialty glasses on a year-round basis, but for the uptick of production ahead of the eclipse rush, the workforce is closer to 90.

The eclipse glasses are made of 10-point, double laminated paperboard which is 100% sourced in the United States. The paperboard is then put through a machine, which punches out the holes where the lens film is placed.

The film used for the lenses of the glasses is Silver-Black Polymer entirely sourced from Thousand Oaks Optical in Kingman, Ariz. The film and paperboard are glued into place before a cutting machine creates 17 pairs of glasses per sheet. The glasses are then packaged in individual wrapping or bundled in groups of 50 before shipping.

According to NASA, cities in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and small parts of Tennessee and Michigan will experience the total solar eclipse.

It is a good bet that one of the larger portions of glasses shipped will be to Texas, where there will be optimal viewing in major cities like Dallas, Ft. Worth and Austin. Killeen, Texas will be one of the longest areas in total darkness at 4 minutes 20 seconds.

For length of time in total darkness you can check with your local media outlet or library, but Lewin offered a few of the places where totality will exist the longest.

“Hot Springs, Arkansas is a big one and Carbondale, Ill. is also a big one,” Lewin said. “Cleveland is obviously a really good one, at 3 minutes and 49 seconds. Dallas is 3 minutes and 48 seconds, and you’ve got places in New York like Buffalo, where totality will last 3 minutes, 49 seconds.

“Another good one is Burlington, Vermont at 3 ½ minutes and Little Rock, Ark. is great. Indianapolis is one of the longer ones and where I will be for the festivities. They expect more than 100,000 people at the Indianapolis Speedway where there will be all kinds of things happening. Opening ceremonies, special balloon launch, STEM Symposium, NASA live broadcast, IndyCar demo laps, Astronaut and driver meet and greets.”

Just viewing this rare total solar eclipse for the wonderment itself can be a bit chilling. But this rare event is an opportunity for a teaching moment. Libraries, NASA, Bill Nye, STEM Symposium and more offer a chance to advance young and old minds alike about the wonders of our universe.

You can purchase solar eclipse glasses from American Paper Optics online. Prices start at $39 for a pack of 10. Also available is the Solar Snap kit for taking photos with your iPhone. The kit includes 2 camera filters, 2 pairs of eclipse glasses, the free eclipse photo app and 2 Velcro sets, priced at $16.99.

Don’t miss out: The next total solar eclipse visible in North America will not be until 2044.