There is no need to fear a cosmic spectacle: expert

All set for the mega event: An employee of the Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum fixing a telescope to view the eclipse, in Bangalore on Tuesday.

All set for the mega event: An employee of the Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum fixing a telescope to view the eclipse, in Bangalore on Tuesday.   | Photo Credit: — Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Chitra V. Ramani

Myths surrounding solar eclipse dispelled

Bangalore: Did you know this solar eclipse will be the longest in the 21st Century, attracting scientists as its path of totality cuts a swathe through several parts of the country?

Solar eclipses may excite scientists but they have for long been the subject of superstition. C.S. Shukre, Director of the Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium, dismissed the many myths surrounding one of the greatest cosmic spectacles.

Myth 1: The sun’s radiation is at its maximum during the eclipse.

Prof. Shukre said that the people are exposed to sun’s radiation continuously. The Earth’s atmosphere actually acts like a filter and provides us protection from the harmful ultra-violet radiation. If at all we were to be affected, the ill-effects should be felt everyday. Moreover, with the moon coming in between the Earth and sun, it acts like a block. If at all, the radiation will be less during the eclipse.

Myth 2: Pregnant women and children are affected by the radiation during the eclipse.

Human history has established many facts. For example, we do not need any experiment to prove that people will fall ill if they drink contaminated water. Over the years from our accumulated experience, we have picked up wisdom. Also, eclipses are natural phenomenon that has been occurring even before man. To prove this myth, we would have to undertake a statistical study with a sample of 1,000 pregnant women. We would have to ask 500 to stay indoors and send others outdoors, study the ill-effects (if any) before drawing up any correlation. It is unlikely, as these things would have been noticed by our previous generations, Prof. Shukre said.

Myth 3: There will be an increase in the incidence of cough, cold, epilepsy, and variations in diabetics and blood pressure patients.

There are several “scientific astrologers” who have been claiming that the eclipse will cause people to fall ill. However, there is no evidence to prove this, as they have no way to establish it.

Myth 4: People should not take any water or food during the eclipse.

Prof. Shukre said over the past 100 years, the number of people complaining about stomach disorders and indigestion has increased. He believes that it is important for people to concentrate their energies on being healthy rather than worry about whether or not to have food during the eclipse. A large percentage of the population believes in traditional wisdom. However, there may not be any reasons for practising it anymore. For example, people earlier believed it was a sin to cross the seas. We need to be rational and try to come out of these practices that are no longer relevant.

Myth 5: The chances of natural calamities occurring increases during eclipse.

A section of people are sensationalising this myth and capitalising on people’s misconceptions. First of all, they have to quantify the calamity. Catastrophes have happened, but there is no concrete proof that it was due to an eclipse. Also, people in the other countries go about their businesses without giving the eclipse a second thought. It is not that they have suffered by doing so. There is a message there for us too. We should not waste our time believing these untruths and falling for superstitions, Prof. Shukre added.

People may view the eclipse by taking necessary precautions from a high-rise building or hillock. The safest method would be to project the sun’s image on a wall or white cloth with a pinhole camera and look at the image.

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