Friday, August 18, 2017

Just enjoy the eclipse!


OK, I'm going to try to be nice, but I've been reading some unbelievably stupid things on social media lately, so I'll do my best.  Apologies ahead of time if you've fallen for some of these absurdities.  If you actually believe some of these whoppers, please don't.  Stop twisting reasonable cautions into irrational fearmongering.

1.  You do not need to stockpile groceries, gas, prescriptions, etc.  It's not the end of the world.  The total eclipse lasts two measly minutes.  This is no time to panic, riot, or loot your neighborhood store.  Get over it.  Stop scaring people.

2.  Unless you get a large portion of power from the sun (California), you are unlikely to experience a power outage.  I saw a hysterical facebook post that said the power stations are unprepared for the sudden demand for power during the eclipse.  The total eclipse lasts two measly minutes.  There's no way that's going to cause such a spike in demand that your power goes out.  The power doesn't go out at night, does it?  Same deal.  Get over it.  Stop scaring people.

3.  You do not have to protect your pets because they'll stare at the eclipse and go blind.  Just... no.  Animals know enough not to stare at the sun.  They don't stare at the sun on a normal day, do they?  They don't stare at the sun when it's cloudy, do they?  No.  Your dog isn't going to go blind if you let him out during the eclipse.  He might be disoriented by the darkness, but that's it.  Get over it.  Stop scaring people.

4.  There is absolutely nothing special about the solar radiation during an eclipse.  Nothing.  Do you stare at the sun on a normal day?  No?  Can't do it because the sun's too bright?  That's the same deal during an eclipse.  The warnings are for you to take sensible precautions and not try to "tough it out" and stare at the sun while the moon only partially obscures it.  The warnings are not supposed to inspire some irrational fear so that you skip the eclipse.  If you're in the path of totality (or even near the path) and you're able to get out, you need to experience this thing for yourself.  It's one of creation's grandest shows.  It's a gift from God.  Enjoy it!  Stop scaring people.

Sensible advice: If you want to look at the moon partially eclipsing the sun (for the 90 minutes before and after totality), use eclipse glasses or a pinhole viewer.  Traffic may indeed be a bit crazy Monday, but probably no worse than a well-attended football game.  Drive safely, leave extra time to get where you're going, and you should be fine.  You can look directly at the eclipsed sun only when totality begins if you are in the path of totality.  The corona of the sun should be faintly visible around the darkened disk of the eclipsed sun.  That should be a spectacular view, and it's not dangerous.  When you take off your glasses during totality, be careful to watch the clock, so you can put your glasses back on when the sun reappears.  Please don't waste all your time during this amazing experience trying to take pictures.  Snap a few shots, then enjoy the show.  Watch the world around you.  Feel the temperature drop.  The temperature will also cause a small breeze as the cool air under the moon's shadow falls and moves away from the shadow's center (No, it isn't dangerous.  It's just a breeze.  Stop scaring people.)

Here's some advice on glasses for kids and pinhole viewers from my old pal Dr. McGarvey and his colleague Dr. White:

Remember: If you skip this just because you're scared, you can't just change your mind when you see that there was nothing to be scared of.  Totality only lasts for two minutes.  The next two total solar eclipses go across South America in 2019 and 2020.  After that, you have to wait till 2023 across southeast Asia and 2024 before an eclipse comes back to North America.  In 2026, you could go to the arctic to see one.  So this isn't like any other event that rolls around regularly.  You may never have another opportunity in your lifetime to see this right outside your door.  Get ready, take sensible precautions, and enjoy!

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.