While many are excited to watch the eclipse, there are several misconceptions and myths that stop a few from stepping out of their houses and watching the astronomical event. Experts emphasize that events like eclipses do not emit any harmful radiation that could affect or harm people.
What happens during an eclipse?
During a solar eclipse, the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, blocking the sun’s view on Earth. While in a Lunar eclipse, the Earth comes in between the sun and the moon, creating a shadow on the moon.
In its detailed explanation on Eclipse: misconceptions, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, US says that the scientists have studied this radiation for centuries. “Being a million times fainter than the light from the sun itself, there is nothing in the coronal light (corona is the outermost part of the sun’s atmosphere) that could cross 150 million km of space, penetrate our dense atmosphere, and cause blindness,” NASA has said.
Know the facts, burst the myths about eclipses
Happiest Health spoke to experts to burst myths about the eclipses, saying it is just astronomical event and doesn’t affect one’s life:
1. Myth: Stepping out during an eclipse and being exposed to radiation is harmful
Fact: It is safe to step out during eclipses and the radiation isn’t harmful
It is safe to step out during the eclipse and the rays are not harmful to anyone, says Sadhana Attavar, scientist and director of Visvesvarya Industrial and Technological Museum, Bangalore.
“UV rays are always emitted from the sun and not only during an eclipse. No extra radiation is emitted during an eclipse,” says B S Shylaja, visiting scientist, Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium, Bangalore. “There cannot be any change in the radiation emitted by the sun whether on a normal day or during an eclipse. The moon comes in a way like an umbrella, stopping the radiation from the sun for a while during the eclipse,” she said.
2. Myth: Watching solar and lunar eclipses will result in blindness
Fact: Watching eclipses will not result in blindness but it’s necessary to do it with safety precautions
It’s never safe to look at the sun directly as that can cause blindness, says Attavar. “During a solar eclipse, one can watch the sun through safe solar or eclipse glasses. Watching it with naked eyes can result in retinal damage,” she said.
Watching the sun during sunrise, sunset, and total eclipse are safe, says Shylaja. She said that other than glasses, one can watch it through a pinhole projection on a wall which is also a safe option.
“Whereas a lunar eclipse can be seen with the naked eye and will cause no harm to the eyes as the moon does not emit any radiation,” she said.
3. Myth: Pregnant women watching an eclipse can affect the baby
Fact: Eclipse will not have any effect on pregnant women
There is no scientific evidence to back up the idea that pregnant women witnessing an eclipse might end up having babies with birth abnormalities like cleft lips, says Dr Astha Jain Mathur, consultant obstetrician & gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospitals, Indore.
“Not merely seeing an eclipse can result in birth abnormalities like cleft lip, often brought about by genetic and environmental factors throughout fetal development. Pregnant mothers may safely witness eclipses without worrying about specifically injuring their unborn child,” said Dr Mathur.
4. Myth: Being born during an eclipse will affect the child’s health and immunity
Fact: Eclipse does not affect health or immunity
There is no evidence of birth defects for babies delivered during an eclipse, says Shylaja. “It’s a false idea that eclipses produce extra or harmful rays that can harm us. There are no harmful rays or radiation that can affect us during an eclipse,” she explained.
“Genetic, environmental, and behavioral variables interact in a complicated way to affect one’s health and well-being,” said Dr Mathur dismissing the claims that health gets affected due to astronomical occurrences like eclipses.
Besides, experts condemn the plight faced by many special children during the eclipse. Burying a child with special needs till the neck during eclipse hoping for a complete recovery is rubbish and nothing but abuse caused to a child, said experts, adding that eclipse makes no difference to one’s life.
5. Myth: Food turns poisonous during an eclipse
Fact: Eclipse has no effect on food
There are several superstitions that forbid pregnant women and young children from eating during an eclipse, however, these beliefs are not supported by scientific or medical evidence, said Dr Mathur. “Eating during an eclipse has no intrinsic drawbacks regarding nutrition or health. Children and those who are pregnant should eat a balanced diet and get the nutrients they need for good health,” she said.
“To break the myth, we arrange breakfast at our museum where people are encouraged to eat during the eclipse assuring them that it is safe to consume,” says Attavar adding that making children starve for such long hours due to cultural beliefs can be a punishment to children.