Superstitions galore on eclipse

Do away with false beliefs, adopt safe methods to watch it, says experts



“There are several false beliefs prevalent in our society regarding solar eclipse. Some people even lock themselves up in their homes to avoid ‘the bad rays’ from the eclipse,” said Nehru Planetarium director N Rathnashree.

Many also take a dip in holy rivers to cleanse themselves after the eclipse and some avoid cooking and eating during the eclipse. There are others who believe that pregnant women should refrain from coming out during the eclipse as it can lead to deformities in the foetus.

Rathnashree stressed that there is no cause for fear during an eclipse but people should take precautions while viewing the phenomenon.

“The total solar eclipse is a once in a lifetime opportunity and a very interesting activity. It should be watched under the supervision of experts with proper gadgets. I am flooded with calls and e-mails from people who want to know the impact of solar eclipse on them,” she said.

But in the past few years people have allayed their fears and do come out in large number to watch such celestial events.

The total eclipse, which starts at sunrise in Surat in Gujarat, is expected to last six minutes and 44 seconds, making it the longest till 2132.

The moon’s shadow will be so large during this eclipse that even at sunrise the duration of totality will be over three minutes. The shadow very quickly moves across the breadth of India towards Arunachal Pradesh. It spans a third of the entire path in India - 900 km out of 2,500 km.

“It is very important to emphasise that viewing the eclipse with the naked eye would be very dangerous. Viewing the sun through a telescope or a binoculars without a proper filter is many times more dangerous — it could destroy your eyesight,” Rathnashree warned.

According to her, the safest way of viewing a total solar eclipse is through the method of projection. A pair of binoculars can be used along with a long hardboard box to obtain good projected views of the sun for safe solar viewing, she said.

“By projection method, a pinhole or small opening is used to cast the image of the sun on a screen placed a half-meter or more beyond the opening,” she added. If you don’t have access to a telescope or binoculars, Rathnashree explained an easy method of using a kitchen sieve with small perforations.

Hold the sieve just above the ground, tilting its face towards the sun. Moving the sieve a little away from the ground, one can see an image of the sun forming, which will show the eclipse when it occurs.

People should also avoid watching the eclipse using sunglasses, smoked glass, colour film, black-and-white film that contains no silver, or photographic negatives with images on them.

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