There is to be a solar eclipse visible in the northern UK on Friday, apparently. You’re not allowed to look at it.
Daniel Hardiman-McCartney, clinical adviser at the Royal College of Optometrists, said taking a selfie could see you ‘accidentally looking directly at the sun while aligning yourself and your phone’.
Accidentally looking at the sun. For a second. Who hasn’t ever looked at the sun for a second or two? Any longer and it hurts. So you look away.
He told The Daily Telegraph: ‘There is no safe system to directly view an eclipse. However viewing a video or photo of the eclipse on your phone screen would not be harmful.’
Is that… ‘no safe level of sunlight’? I’ve watched partial eclipses through a friend’s welding mask. No harm befell me. I was neither blinded nor incinerated. My eyes did not pop out on long strings and my elbows didn’t explode. So it was all good.
At least the real story belies the Mail’s atempted obfuscation –
But optometrists have warned that taking a selfie during the near-total solar eclipse on Friday could lead to eye damage – and even be as dangerous as looking directly at the sun.
Er… no. If you are standing with your back to the eclipse and looking at an image of it on your phone, there is no direct sunlight entering your eyes. Only reflected and phone screen light. Which is what the clinical adviser actually said. A photo of a thing is not the thing itself. You can stare at a photo of the sun all day long and suffer no ill effects beyond soul-crushing boredom. Stare at the sun for an hour and you’ll never see again.
When I was at school (mine has long been demolished, as have most other places I studied and worked at. It wasn’t me!) the viewing implement of choice was a piece of smoked glass. We made these in chemistry class by holding a sheet of glass over a candle or a bunsen turned to a yellow flame. The smoke built up on the glass until it was impossible to see anything through it unless you held it up to the sun. I recall only one eclipse at school, and then only vaguely. It was *harrumph* years ago and I was just a hairy and spotty adolescent at the time.
So we viewed the eclipse through our bit of smoked glass and all was well. Nobody fell to the floor screaming ‘My eyes! My eyes!’. Nobody spontaneously combusted. Not a single child ignited that day. There were a few I still wish had.
Now… now they aren’t even allowed to view the eclipse through professionally made glasses designed specifically for the purpose. Because of something a head teacher read online.
Wait a minute. Solar eclipse glasses? Surely that’s a slow-moving business?
It’s true that staring into the sun for extended periods will damage your eyes. That’s why your eyes immediately send a message to your brain saying ‘That hurts. Stop doing it!’ And then you look away, blink until you can see properly and learn not to do it again.
It’s not difficult to make smoked glass for an eclipse. Then you can wash the glass and use it for something else, such as seeing through or making that breaking-glass sound. Now, even with professionally-made things, you risk spontaneous combustion and exploding elbows.
What? It is an established and well fabricated fact that these things are linked to solar eclipses. Incidences of elbow explosion are very closely linked indeed. In fact, they happen at no other time. In the eclipse of August 11, 1999, the outbreak of elbow explosion in the UK nearly broke the NHS but you won’t hear about that because they blamed it all on smoking.
I think, for me, the only bad thing about this eclipse is the scheduling. 9:30 am on a Friday? Nobody sensible is even awake then. Why not 9:30 pm? It’ll be dark then so no danger of sun-blindness. Also, I could watch it on the way home. I’ll suggest it to the idiots in charge. I’m sure they’ll listen. They listen to a lot weirder crap than that.
Anyhow, it’s overcast here because there is a good chance of an aurora tonight. It’ll be overcast here at 9:30 am on Friday but blue sky by 11 am. I still won’t be up, most likely.
Friday is my day off and I have a couple of days of double shifts this week. So I’ll be catching up on sleep. Not much sleep last night, a bit more tonight, more again tomorrow because there’s only a 3 pm start on Thursday, and all the rest on Friday morning.
So I’m pretty certain I’ll miss the eclipse. Probably for the best. I need my elbows.