October 2023 vs. August 2017

As the October 2023 annular solar eclipse approaches, a sense of excitement and anticipation fills the air. This celestial event is expected to be one of the most watched in recent history, drawing crowds from all over the world. However, with the increasing demand for a front-row seat to this cosmic spectacle, there's a growing concern that's hard to ignore: the rapid decline in the inventory of eclipse glasses.

The Current Scenario: October 2023

As we inch closer to the event, retailers and online stores are struggling to keep up with the skyrocketing demand for eclipse glasses. These specialized glasses are essential for safely viewing the sun during the eclipse, as looking directly at the sun can cause permanent eye damage. From astronomical societies to schools and individual enthusiasts, everyone is scrambling to secure a pair.

The situation has escalated to the point where some vendors are putting a cap on the number of glasses one can purchase, and prices have surged due to the laws of supply and demand. The shortage has also given rise to a black market, where counterfeit glasses that don't meet safety standards are being sold, posing a significant risk to uninformed buyers.

The Flashback: August 2017

This isn't the first time we've seen such a frenzy. The August 2017 total solar eclipse, which was visible across the United States, also led to a similar last-minute rush for eclipse glasses. Back then, many people found themselves empty-handed just days before the event, despite planning. Libraries and educational institutions that had stocked up on free glasses for public distribution ran out within hours.

The 2017 shortage also saw a surge in prices and the emergence of counterfeit glasses. However, the scale was somewhat localized, given that the path of totality was confined to the United States. The October 2023 annular eclipse, on the other hand, will be visible in multiple continents, exacerbating the shortage on a global scale.

The Underlying Factors

Several factors contribute to these recurring shortages. First, the production of eclipse glasses is not a constant affair. Manufacturers ramp up production only a few months before a major eclipse, leading to a bottleneck when demand suddenly spikes. Second, the general public often underestimates the need for these glasses until the event is imminent, leading to last-minute scrambles.

Lessons to Learn

The parallels between the 2023 and 2017 shortages offer valuable lessons. Planning and public awareness need to be ramped up well in advance of these events. Retailers and institutions should also consider collaborating to ensure a more even distribution of these essential viewing tools.

The Way Forward

As we count down the days to the October 2023 annular eclipse, let this situation serve as a wake-up call for future events. If you haven't secured your pair of eclipse glasses yet, now is the time to act. Keep an eye out for glasses that meet the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard, and steer clear of counterfeit products. Eclipse Glasses USA is your one stop shop for a 5-pack of ISO certified eclipse glasses, packaged specifically in 5 pairs for the average family or friend group. 

While the shortage is a concern, it also highlights the incredible public interest in astronomy and science. Let's channel this enthusiasm into better preparation and education, ensuring that everyone can safely enjoy the awe-inspiring moments that our universe has to offer.

In conclusion, the rapid decline in eclipse glasses inventory is a déjà vu moment, reminiscent of the August 2017 eclipse. As we prepare for this magnificent celestial event, let's be proactive, informed, and safe. After all, an eclipse is a marvel to behold, but only if you're equipped to do so safely.

Roger Sarkis