• Tuesday, May 21, 2024

HEALTH

Total solar eclipse of April 8: Safety tips for happy viewing

Looking straight at the sun causes solar retinopathy or eclipse blindness and our eyes won’t even feel the retina getting damaged because there are no pain detectors in our retina.

Representative image (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

By: Twinkle Roy

PEOPLE of many parts of the United States of America will be in luck as the total solar eclipse will pass across the nation on Monday (8).

At the Texas-Mexico border, the totality of the solar eclipse is said to last the longest — 4 minutes 27 seconds. 

While space enthusiasts will not let such a rare opportunity to view a celestial event go unused, experts in vision, astronomy and NASA offered some safety tips to share with eclipse aficionados — particularly veterans, intermediates, and beginners. 

Read: US gets ready for total solar eclipse of April 8: CATCH THE MOOD IN PICS

Here are some safety tips for every one excited to get a glance of the eclipse:

  • Do not attempt to look at the partial eclipse, not even for a second!
  • Wear eclipse glasses at all times except during the brief period of “totality,” when the sun’s face is completely blocked by the moon, leaving only the glowing solar corona. It will last just a few minutes. But remember, if you are not in the narrow path of the totality, spanning from Texas to Maine, even that option doesn’t exist for you.
  • Put the eclipse glasses back on as soon as the sun resurfaces. Children may need close supervision.
  • According to  Lisa Ostrin, a vision researcher and optometrist at the University of Houston’s College of Optometry, who spoke to The Washington Post, making eclipse glasses at home is a wrong idea since such glasses are designed to filter 99.99 per cent of the light, which is 1,000 times the capacity to block in a standard sunglass!
  • The right setting has to be employed while using some welder’s filters, according to the American Astronomical Society.
  • You can always go for out-of-the-box ideas to observe the effect of the eclipse clearly. NASA is fine with building homemade pinhole projectors that will allow indirect viewing of the eclipsed sun.
  • It is advised not to look at the partially eclipsed sun through a camera, binoculars or a telescope without a specially designed solar filter as it “will instantly cause severe eye injury,” NASA has warned.
  • Consider using a tripod to minimise motion blur and get a clearer picture of the effect without having to look toward the sun repeatedly. NASA also advises against aiming one’s camera or phone at the eclipse unless one has a solar filter for protection.
  • Don’t try to take a selfie with the partially eclipsed sun. The ultraviolet radiation can bounce back and damage your eyes when your back faces the sun because.
  • The American Automobile Association has also issued cautions for motorists, asking them not to try to look at the eclipse while driving, race on the road, or pull over just anywhere as many pedestrians might come out on roads to see the eclipse. Some nocturnal animals might get active looking at the nightlike conditions.

Read: Explainer: What is total solar eclipse & why it’s rare

Why are people advised against looking at the sun with the naked eye?

This is because looking straight at the sun during the eclipse can cause solar retinopathy or eclipse blindness. The ultraviolet radiation of the sun has to be filtered out with some aid even if the sun is partially blocked, hardly visible, or its intensity and brightness are dimmed by the clouds. 

“Any eye-care professional will say it’s not safe even for a second,” Ostrin said, according to the Post. “As soon as that light is focused on your retina, it can begin to damage the cells.”

Read: Enthusiasts prepare for total solar eclipse in US, Mexico and Canada despite weather worry

“During an eclipse, people may not have that natural reaction to look away. We don’t have pain receptors in your retina, so you can’t tell when it’s starting to damage your retina,” she added.

Can a person get a perfect glance at ‘totality’?

Most eclipse aficionados think that it is highly unlikely to get a perfect glimpse of ‘totality’. While some of them lack the resources to make the best of those four and half minutes or some will be preoccupied with their day jobs during that time, totality is not easily captured even by the ones who are exclusively aiming for it. 

Online maps depict the path of totality during a solar eclipse, with the more detailed ones indicating the duration of totality at various points along the path. At the outermost edges of the path of totality, the sun may be completely obscured for only a few fleeting seconds, whereas at the center of the path, totality may last for approximately four minutes. Despite the variance in duration, the appearance of totality remains consistent; only the length of time differs.

The 2024 eclipse may be especially dramatic because the sun is at its most active period in a couple of decades. Solar eclipses have helped scientists learn more about the universe in the past and we believe the latest one will be no exception.

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