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View Full Version : Solar viewing: of all the stupid things...



parejkoj
2003-Sep-22, 03:40 AM
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

Of all the stupid things my mom has ever done, I think this makes it to the top of the list.

So, she was in Cleveland for a conference of some kind, amongst church-folk (probably Catholic, but I'm not certain and it really doesn't matter) and she told me that someone said something amazing. That on that day, it would be possible to view the sun without being hurt. So she did. Along with a number of other people there.

I can only hope it was completely cloudy, but I fear it wasn't, since she told me she saw wonderful lights and a halo around the sun and more (ie, just the things you see when you look at a very bright light and your eye is going hay-wire)... She said what they did was make a small hole in their fist (like an 'O') and look through it, then open their hand. She said it didn't hurt, which meant it obviously didn't do any damage. She said she looked for about 15 seconds or so, per eye (one eye at a time). I'm only assuming the "looking through the hand" part was an attempt to "aclimate the eye to the light" or some such drek. (trying not to swear here, but it is hard... this is my mother after all!)

Who ever was telling people about this needs to be arrested or something. I tried to explain to my mother that your eyes can't sense damage and that they can be hurt without you noticing, but she didn't get it. She rather firmly believes that something miraculous happened. I told her that if she went to an eye doctor, he'd probably be able to detect some damage. I also told her to never listen to someone if they tell her to do that again, but I doubt she'll will. Now I'm afraid that if she goes to the doctor and he/she doesn't find anything, she'll think that this really was a miracle.

Am I actually related to my mother? Why does she listen to these people? And just how much eye damage did she get for ~10 seconds of unprotected viewing? I'm trying to find out online, but so far nothing...

SarahMc
2003-Sep-22, 11:55 AM
That's just sad. It's one thing to scam money or time from people, but it's a whole different thing when you start inflicting damage to them - regardless of whether it's psychological or physical.

Just what was the "miracle" supposed to be? The only one I can think of is if she didn't receive any permanent damage.

Have her visit this website (http://sunearth.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse/SEhelp/safety2.html), or print it out for her. There's some information on Solar Retinopathy (http://www.eyecare-information-service.org.uk/pages/information/disorders/solarret.htm)here.

daver
2003-Sep-22, 08:34 PM
Do you know what time of day this was?

I'm certainly not an expert on mythology--this belief that it is ok to view the sun on a particular date is a new one to me. Was it something involving the equinox?

I googled a bit; there's the Miracle of Fatima, where a village saw the sun mysteriously diminished in brightness (like a silver plate, i believe). I didn't pay too much attention to the accounts; you can look it up if you're interested. This was supposed to be May 13, 1917--it seems unlikely that your mum was celebrating the anniversary of this event.


Anyway, i'm not sure that eye damage is guaranteed, even after protracted viewing. If she notices difficulty in reading it's probably too late to do anything except learn to live with it. Most likely she wouldn't notice a blind spot otherwise--the brain is pretty good at disguising them.

mike alexander
2003-Sep-22, 08:51 PM
Oh, brother. As my own mother used to say, if everybody else jumped off a cliff, would you do it, too?

I recall that the BA in BA discusses staring at the sun. I don't think that 10-15 sec would cause permanent damage; if so, she was lucky.

Is there a nice way to ask your mother WHY she did this? I mean, is this the photonic equivalent of handling poisonous snakes?

snowcelt
2003-Sep-22, 10:12 PM
A few years ago, during one of the eclipses, a teen from Quebec stared at the phenomenon for a protracted amount of time. I saw the interview with the kid. Her pupils were almost as wide as the iris. Saw the follow-up story and she completely recovered. Could this have happened because she was young?

Hypatia
2003-Sep-24, 03:44 PM
I wouldn't panic too much. But I would warn her that if she does this on a regular basis, it could damage her retina. It is like a sun-burn - you can recover from one or two instances, but repeated or prolonged exposure can cause permenant damage, like blind spots.

Galilleo observed the Sun through his low power (6X) telescopes wihout serious permenant damage. (He did have cataracts in his later years, but they weren't related to his solar viewing, which damages the retina, not the cornea).

Using binos or a scope is a whole 'nother kettle of fish. They literally burn out cells in your retina. Timothy Ferris briefly stared at the Sun during a solar eclipse and produced floaters in his eyeball.

diddidit
2003-Sep-24, 04:03 PM
Through a very uniform cloud cover (or dense fog) it's possible to see the sun as a dim disk, with sunspots becoming easily visible. It's pretty cool.

Now, why does your mom think this represents a miracle?

did

parejkoj
2003-Sep-24, 04:15 PM
Now, why does your mom think this represents a miracle?


That's what I'm wondering. She's going to talk to the optometrist, so hopefully there will be an "official" answer soon. I just sort of panicked when I first heard it. Yes, 10-15 seconds probably isn't harmful, but I suspect it is a bit of a crap-shoot: someone could look for a minute or two without out significant harm, whereas someone else might look for a few seconds and end up scarred.

I'm just wondering who the heck suggested this idea, and why? What was the justification (she didn't seem to remember one, other than some miraculus mumbo-jumbo).

[edit for spelling]

Jigsaw
2003-Sep-24, 04:19 PM
I told her that if she went to an eye doctor, he'd probably be able to detect some damage.
Yes. It's a very simple test, takes about 20 minutes altogether. You want an ophthamologist, not an optometrist or an optician. The assistant will use atropine drops to dilate her pupils as wide as it's physically possible for them to be, then come back in 10 minutes, when they're fully dilated, and take a series of full-color computer-software-coordinated photographs of her retina, looking for different things.

Then the ophthamologist will come in and and look at the pictures and give the official verdict.



Note: she will need someone to drive her home afterwards, as you can't SEE anything outside in the sunlight with your pupils fully dilated. Sunglasses don't help--your whole vision is blurry and out of whack, because too much light is still coming in. It takes about 6 hours for the atropine to wear off, during which time she shouldn't figure on being able to do anything that involves bright lights, like staring at a computer monitor or a TV set.

parejkoj
2003-Sep-24, 04:25 PM
Yes. It's a very simple test, takes about 20 minutes altogether. You want an ophthamologist, not an optometrist or an optician.

Yeah, I know the test. I hate it myself, but I have a problem with eyedrops. I meant ophthamologist, but I never get the terms right (maybe I'll stop confusing them now that I've used them enough? Or maybe not...). I'll let folks know what the results are, when I hear them.

But if anyone does know about the rough time limits for damage, I'd like to hear them. It would be good to know.

chris l.
2003-Sep-24, 05:27 PM
I seem to recall that Newton staired at the sun for a prolonged period of time. Nearly blinded him. He had to sit in a dark room for several days, but recovered.

Jigsaw
2003-Sep-24, 08:49 PM
Browsing around on Google and reading up on "solar retinopathy", I find nobody willing to give a time limit for how long you can stare at the sun without incurring damage. I would assume that this is because they don't want to get sued by some yahoo who reads it and decides to go out in the backyard and push the edge of the envelope.

I also found out that the older you are, the cloudier your eye lenses are, and that this gives older people a bit more protection than children under the age of 10 have, so that's something.

Also, that the damage is due not only to the basic "very very very bright light", but also due to UV and infrared rays. So this is why you can get retina damage even from staring at a full eclipse.

And I found this. (http://www.eyecare-information-service.org.uk/pages/information/disorders/solarret.htm)


How do I know if I have solar retinopathy?

As there are no pain-sensing nerves in the retina you will not feel any pain while the damage is being caused. Some hours after the event you may experience the following symptoms:

eyes may become watery and sore
difficulty in seeing shape and detail of objects
discomfort with bright light
a blind spot in your central vision
things may appear to be unusually coloured
objects may be distorted in shape-

tracer
2003-Sep-24, 11:32 PM
Was it something involving the equinox?
And if so, does you mother know she was at least 2 days early? The Autumnal Equinox happened on September 23rd this year.

(Maybe this "miraculous" effect involves the Church's official equinox, which always happens precisely on September 21st regardless of when the sun actually crosses the equator. :roll: )

parejkoj
2003-Sep-24, 11:51 PM
Was it something involving the equinox?
And if so, does you mother know she was at least 2 days early? The Autumnal Equinox happened on September 23rd this year.

(Maybe this "miraculous" effect involves the Church's official equinox, which always happens precisely on September 21st regardless of when the sun actually crosses the equator. :roll: )

Heh... I didn't even think of that, but that probably wasn't it: this happened sometime last week, well before either of those dates. Could be related though...

Eroica
2003-Sep-28, 05:41 PM
I don't know if anyone is following this thread anymore, but I have an acquaintance who is a regular visitor to Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a pilgrimage site where the Virgin Mary is supposed to have regularly appeared to six teenagers from 1981 on. Returning from one of her pilgrimages, this acquaintance insisted that the Sun had turned blue and danced around the sky!

I shrugged my shoulders: "I never saw that," I said.

"But you weren't there!" she protested.

I tried to explain to her that it's the same Sun that shines in the Irish sky as shines in the Bosnian. If the Sun really had turned blue and danced around the sky, half the world's population would have noticed.

Some people just don't want to use their brains.

daver
2003-Sep-29, 05:57 PM
I don't know if anyone is following this thread anymore, but I have an acquaintance who is a regular visitor to Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a pilgrimage site where the Virgin Mary is supposed to have regularly appeared to six teenagers from 1981 on. Returning from one of her pilgrimages, this acquaintance insisted that the Sun had turned blue and danced around the sky!

I shrugged my shoulders: "I never saw that," I said.

"But you weren't there!" she protested.

I tried to explain to her that it's the same Sun that shines in the Irish sky as shines in the Bosnian. If the Sun really had turned blue and danced around the sky, half the world's population would have noticed.

Some people just don't want to use their brains.

IIRC, the witnesses of the Fatima Miracle also claimed the sun turned funny colors and danced. Possibly this is a common occurrence if you stare at it too long. It'd be nice if someone not caught up in the hysteria of the moment would take some videotape of some shadows.

mike alexander
2003-Sep-30, 04:49 PM
I can tell you from personal experience that if you stare at the sun long enough it will turn funny (bluish) colors and dance in the sky. I had completely forgotten about this until the thread jogged my memory.

We had been hearing about the miracles at Fatima at school and some friends and I decided to check this out. So we went out and stared at the sun (no comments please. we were kids). Indeed, the image of the sun appeared to have funny colors, seemed larger, and kinda danced around a little. Yes, it hurt, too. Very excited, I went in and told my parents about it.

I distinctly remember my father being quiet for a bit. Then he went to the bedroom, got out his Kodak, put in a flashbulb and took my picture. Then he asked me what I saw.

Obviously, the combination of extremely bright light source, multiple afterimages and the microscanning the eye is always doing fully explained the dancing blue sun.

Darn. I wish I still had that picture.