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Solar Eclipse 2020: Health myths to shun and safety measures for viewing the ring of fire

Wear protective eye gear while watching a solar eclipse.

As the first solar eclipse of 2020 begins at 9:15 AM today, we help you separate facts from fiction about this celestial event while guiding you on some precautionary measures that you need to follow while watching it.

Written by Saswati Sarkar |Updated : June 22, 2020 7:34 PM IST

Stargazers from the Eastern Hemisphere are all geared up to view the first solar eclipse of 2020 today. Interestingly, it coincides with the longest day of the year (summer solstice) this time, a rare coincidence. Since 1938, this is the first time that solar eclipse and summer solstice are taking place on the same day and this rare occurrence will be witnessed again in 2039. However, it is not going to be a total eclipse.

SOLAR ECLIPSE AND THE 'RING OF FIRE': WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

Solar eclipse takes place when the earth and sun have the moon in between them. This is the time when the distance between the earth and moon is the longest. So, it cannot block the entire sun, leaving its outermost rim visible from the earth. According to NASA scientists, the moon will be able to cover 99.4 per cent of the sun. This will create the stunning 'ring of fire' during solar eclipse. It's going to start from 9:15 AM today and going to continue till 3:04 PM. India will experience the maximum eclipse at 12:10 IST. It will also be visible from central Africa, the southern Arabian Peninsula, Pakistan, Northern India, South Central China, northern Australia and parts of the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

HEALTH MYTHS YOU SHOULD SAY GOODBYE TO

Solar eclipse is shrouded with quite a few health and food myths. We help you separate fact from fiction.

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Myth: Solar eclipse is harmful for babies in the womb.

Fact: This is a popular belief in the Indian culture. Pregnant women are advised to avoid watching a solar eclipse because this geographical event is believed to harm them and their baby. People are under the impression that it can affect the development of the unborn baby leading to congenital deformity, cleft lip and birthmarks. However, science doesn't validate any of these claims. Scientists have clarified that anybody can watch this celestial event after taking precautionary eye measures.

Myth: Foods become poisonous if cooked during solar eclipse.

Fact: In the Indian culture, it is believed that harmful gases and radiations are emitted during solar eclipse which turn your food poisonous. People also believe that the digestive system also becomes sluggish during this event. However, scientists have assured that it is absolutely okay to cook, eat and drink during a solar eclipse.

EYE SAFETY MEASURES TO FOLLOW

According to the (NASA), it's unsafe to watch a solar eclipse in naked eyes. This agency recommends wearing solar eclipse glasses while viewing this celestial event. The American Academy of Ophthalmology also warns against gazing at the sun without eye protection as it may lead to a condition called solar retinopathy and damage your vision.

Under normal circumstances, we are unable to stare at the glaring sun. However, during a solar eclipse it becomes easy to do so as the moon blocks the sun completely or partially and there is no discomfort to the eyes. However, the UV rays of the sun are likely to attack the retina of your eyes if you look at it during a solar eclipse.

Retina is a light-sensitive tissue that laces the inner surface of your eyes. Once the UV rays reach this tissue, they lead to the formation of free radicals which damage the retina. This damage, which can be caused by a few seconds of direct exposure to the UV rays, is known as solar retinopathy. The symptoms include watery eyes, soreness in your eyes, headache, blurry or distorted vision, etc. The signs of solar retinopathy may start manifesting 12 hours after your retinal damage occurs. So, make sure that you wear an eclipse glass while viewing a solar eclipse. Here are the eye safety measures you should follow.

  • Check the efficacy of the solar filter in your eclipse glasses. The only thing that a safe solar filter allows you to see is the sun. If the sun looks too bright or out of focus through it or you see a murky haze around the sun, then it's not safe.
  • Don't use an eclipse glass that's older than three years. They won't be able to protect your eyes.
  • Check your solar filter before use. Discard it if it is damaged or scratched.
  • If you wear eyeglasses, fit your eclipse glasses over them.
  • If you are wearing eclipse glasses, avoid viewing the solar eclipse through a camera, telescope, binoculars or any other optical device. In such cases, the solar rays can damage the filter and sneak into your eyes, causing serious injury.

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