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Myths Surrounding the Solar Eclipse

NASA explains what could be to blame for misconceptions

Solar Eclipse Safety Glasses

Dimitris Legakis/Newscom

Will people watching the solar eclipse go blind, get food poisoning or have something bad happen to them? We set the record straight.

There is much excitement — and misconception — ahead of the Aug. 21 solar eclipse. As the day quickly approaches, more and more people are talking about the historic event. Some have far-fetched ideas about the eclipse. With the help of NASA’s website, we’re setting the record straight about five myths.

If you look at the solar eclipse you could go blind.

Well, blind isn’t exactly the right word. NASA says looking at the eclipse without protective lenses could lead to some eye pain and retinal damage. “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 that could cross 150 million kilometers of space, penetrate our dense atmosphere and cause blindness,” says NASA.

Eclipses are harbingers of something very bad about to happen.

Wrong! Total solar eclipses are not typically written in the historical record, but they do tend to be reported when they coincide with other historical events. For example, NASA says, when King Henry I of England died in the early 1100s, it was noted his death was on the same day as an eclipse. People assumed his death was because of the eclipse, but it was pure coincidence.

If you are pregnant you should not watch an eclipse because it can harm your baby.

Nope! This is related to the previous false idea that harmful radiations are emitted during a total solar eclipse. NASA says “the only consequence is that every few minutes a few atoms in your body are transmuted into a different isotope by absorbing a neutrino. This is an entirely harmless effect and would not harm you, or if you are pregnant, the developing fetus.”

Eclipses can poison food.

Wrong again! NASA says some people think the eclipse looks frightening, so they use it as an excuse for anything bad that happens during the eclipse. Unfortunate things, like food poisoning, happen to people every minute of every day. So yes, unfortunate things will happen during the eclipse — but not because of the eclipse. 

Solar eclipses six months after your birthday, or on your birthday, are a sign of impending bad health.

Really, people think this? NASA says yes, and felt a need to refute the claim. “There is no physical relationship between a total solar eclipse and your health, any more than there is a relationship between your health and a new moon.”

NASA listed five other misconceptions on its website.

We’ll have to wait and see if any new myths come about after the latest eclipse on Aug. 21!

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