Giving a Second Chance - 40,000 Glasses go to South America

By Zoe Chee posted 06-25-2019 00:00

Second Chance Glasses Banner 2019

June 25, 2019

Every eclipse is a fascinating natural occurrence. Witnessing the sun shining in the sky and then slowly disappear under the shadow of the moon strikes amazement in the minds of the young and old.

On July 2, 2019, this eclipse is extra special for Astronomers Without Borders, the American public and the people of South America. In an action of generosity, a conscientious effort to preserve the planet through recycling and the desire to share in a spectacular event, those who saw the Great American Eclipse in 2017 donated their glasses to many observers in South America.

Viral Collecting

Right after the total solar eclipse that occurred on August 27, 2017, Astronomers Without Borders put out a social call for people to send their glasses to us so that we could recycle them for the next solar eclipse.

We got an outstanding result! Our social channels were ablaze with likes and shares. The media were calling us for days looking for more information about how people could participate to hand over their nearly new, lightly worn glasses to another who would have a chance to glance what they just did.

We were getting glasses from individuals, sending small in envelopes to classes, companies, organizations sharing entire boxes. all over the country. We set up a collection centre database so that people could drop their glasses off at an easily accessible location. About 1000 collecting centers registered on our website and an estimated 5 million glasses were sent!

Large, medium and small companies sent glasses. Organizations like National Parks, Highway Safety Officers, Libraries, Real Estate Agencies were creating boxes so that viewers could be deposited and sent. Explore Scientific partnered with us to house the incoming goods.



The glasses were tucked away in boxes and envelopes of all different sizes, stored in piles at the Explore Scientific warehouse in Arkansas. All the space was donated. The next time the glasses saw the light of the sun was when the volunteered their time on weekends to look through every set of glasses to make sure they were safe for reuse. Glasses with scratches, lint, holes or frauds were eliminated from the pile and repacked for shipping. Thanks to hours of patience this precious optical apparatus were repacked and were ready for transport to their final destinations.

Getting them to where they’re needed

Astronomers Without Borders started reaching out to their network of amateur astronomers to find homes for the recycled glasses. Several groups stepped forward to receive them, however due to the fact that they were recycled goods and in some cases that they were coming from outside of their countries, customs would not allow their entry. In order for the glasses to get to people who needed them, we had to reach out to embassies. Astronomers Without Borders is so grateful for our partner, Associated University Inc. (AUI) and Tim Spuck who introduce us to the various South American Embassies who helped ship some of the glasses. Along the way, we made new friends and opened our circle of community.

The Mad Dash

One month before the eclipse our team at Explore Scientific were putting together boxes and boxes of glasses, preparing them for shipping to Peru, Chile and Argentina.

Astronomers Without Borders sent 30,000 glasses to the Instituto Geofisico del Peru for distribution in 14 universities and planetaria in 6 regions around the Lima area. 2500 glasses went to the Arequipa, Peru for the Colca Planetarium’s celebration of the eclipse that will be co-hosted by Gandhi Palomino of Fotografia Arentea and Dante Lucioni from Colca Planetarium. 8000 were sent to Argentina that were distributed along the path of the eclipse by partner and friend Beatriz Garcia from National Scientific and Technical Research Council, Mendosa, Argentina and about 2500 glasses to the US Embassy in Chile which will be distributed in two special workshop events.

Astronomers Without Borders partnered with the US Embassy in Chile under their American Academy of Science and Technology to create two eclipse workshops. On June 25, a teacher-to-teach workshop was held in Santiago, Chile bringing together 30 Chilean teachers in the Santiago area to speak with Astronomers Without Borders member American teacher Eric Muhs to talk about how he brought the eclipse to his classroom for the 2017 Great American Eclipse. A separate student workshop was held on June 27 to connect US students who witnessed the 2017 eclipse and share their experience with 30 Chilean students who would soon view the same phenomenon.


So Many Thanks

There are so many people that made this whole program happen. Thanks to the American public for thinking of others and the environment. 

Tim Spuck from Associated University Inc. (AUI) who partnered with us to make the necessary connections within South American Embassies in Washington D.C. and continues to link us up with Asian governments for the next eclipse in December 2019.

Dinah Arnett and Micaela Carrasco Fagnilli from the US Embassy and American Academy of Science and Technology, Chile who put together a two day workshop that connected US teachers and students who witnessed the 2017 total solar eclipse and shared their experience with teachers and students in Chile who will see a similar event demonstrating that astronomy can connect us regardless of time or location.

Scott Roberts at Explore Scientific who helped kindly leant the company’s warehouse space for vetting, sorting and housing the millions of glasses that were sent. To Mike Hatch and his shipping team who were always timely in getting the various of packages of glasses packed and ready for shipping.

Much appreciation is given to Peter Tamblyn of Planetary Science Directorate, Southwest Research Institute who helped connect us with the US Embassy in Argentina that funded the transport of the package that reached Beatriz Garcia of Instituto de Tecnologías en Detección y Astropartículas (ITeDA), Medoza, Argentina. The glasses are being distributed to many who live along the path of totality eclipse in Argentina.

Patricio Lindeman from the Peruvian Embassy who connected me with Danny Eddy Scipion Castillo from the Instituto Geofisico del Peru and funded their large shipment. Also in Peru, Gandhi Palomino of Fotografia Arentea and Dante Lucioni from Colca Planetarium for distributing glasses at their event.

I would especially like to thank Mike Simmons, president of Astronomers Without Borders who had the vision of connecting people through donation, environmental conscientiousness and the feeling of awe we feel when the Sun disappears under the shadow of the Moon. Kevin O'Neill who rounded up the glasses and helped push this enormous project through. Diana Robinson who picked up all the pieces and organized them. Frances Azaren, who was always there to get a shipping quote for ANY amount of glasses. Lindsay Bartolone whose professionalism and grace brings impactful educational resources that added a long term aspect to this program and everyone else at Astronomers Without Borders who supported this effort to this point.

Next Chapter

All the glasses that have been shipped out for this eclipse and have now arrived at their final destination. Next stop - December 26, 2019. An annular solar eclipse will be passing over the skies of the middle east and Asia. We are excited to announce that we have already made contacts in the effected areas to send more recycled glasses.

Donate and come along for the next leg of our journey together!

One People, One Sky