Safety and solar astronomy
SAFETY AND SOLAR ASTRONOMY
Safety - this MUST always be your number one priority with your own solar viewing activities or during you solar outreach events. Any eye damage that may be caused through not taking appropriate precautions may be permanent and it could render a disability to the individual concerned. Safety can never be over stated but to achieve such a safe state and with the advent of fairly low cost modern technology it is not difficult to achieve. There is also the problem of perception as on an out reach event you are allowing the general public to use safe equipment but you must continuously stress that THEY MUST NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!
To get any message across effectively then you must keep it simple and always explain the WHAT, WHY and HOW! I have prepared a list of safety tips that must form the bare minimum of your control measures for the time in the field. You may be able to spot my Insurance background at work here.
Here is a list of the very minimum safety measures that should be incorporated into your prepared RISK ASSESSMENT and then you must put them all fully and continuously into practice throughout the whole event day.
YOU MUST NEVER LOOK AT THE SUN WITH THE UNAIDED EYE OR WITH MAGNIFICATION UNLESS YOU USE THE APPROPRIATE UNDAMAGED FILTERS.
NEVER LOOK ALONG THE EDGE OF YOUR TELESCOPE TO TRY TO LINE IT UP AT THE SUN.
NEVER USE A FILTER UNLESS YOU KNOW IT IS APPROPRIATE FOR SUCH USE AND THAT YOU GOT IT FROM A REPUTABLE DEALER AND IT REMAINS IN GOOD CONDITION.
EXPLAIN [IN SIMPLE TERMS] TO CHILDREN OR ADULTS HOW THE FILTERS ACTUALLY WORK AND WHY WE NEED THEM.
ALWAYS REMOVE THE FINDER SCOPE OR AT THE VERY LEAST ENSURE THAT IT HAS THE LENSE CAPS FITTED AT ALL TIMES.
ALWAYS SUPERVISE THE CASUAL OBSERVERS AND CHILDREN THAT ARE NEAR TO INSTRUMENTS THAT ARE POINTING AT THE SUN.
NEVER LEAVE A TELESCOPE UNATTENDED THAT IS POINTING AT OR NEAR THE SUN.
STRESS THAT THIS IS A SAFELY FILTERED SYSTEM PROVIDED BY EXPERIENCED OBSERVERS - YOU MUST NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!
USE SAFETY WARNINGS PLACED NEAR TO OR ON YOUR EQUIPMENT.
ENSURE YOU HAVE SOME STEPS TO ALLOW CHILDREN TO REACH THE EYEPIECE WITHOUT STRAINING OR THE NEED FOR PARENTAL LIFTING.
IF THIS IS A SOCIETY EVENT APPOINT A SAFETY OFFICER FOR THE DAY TO CONTINUOUSLY AUDIT THESE CONTROL MEASURES AS YOUR TELESCOPE MEN AND WOMEN WILL BE BUSY.
I would not recommend using a Herschel Wedge for an outreach event as to the untrained eye of the casual guest the whole system with no objective filter looks very much like that telescope that is gathering dust in the attic.
FINALLY YOUR ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY SHOULD CARRY APPROPRIATE PUBLIC LIABILITY INSURANCE COVER FOR SUCH EVENTS.
I know that the above list may seem a bit onerous but in practice this is very easy to achieve and continuously maintain and it should in no way detract from the fun of the event.
There are no second chances with eye safety so be fully prepared, remain diligent and keep safe so that every one can fully enjoy the experience!
If you wish to find out more about how solar filters work there are lots of links on the web.
There are quite a number of videos on the web that discuss solar safety