spaceSpace and Physics

Some People Didn't Quite Understand What "Watch Safely" Meant During The Eclipse


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

Lunatics. NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

The Great American Eclipse was a wonderful, perhaps once-in-a-lifetime, opportunity to see the gorgeous cosmic ballet in action. It also seemed to provoke plenty of people up and down the country to do something rather stupid: look at the Sun during the eclipse without any protective glasses on at all.

Although the most famous person to ignore the advice of essentially every scientist and journalist on the planet was the President of the United States, spikes in Google searches for terms like “I looked at the Sun” and “eclipse headache” reveal that he wasn’t alone in this endeavor.


Somehow, though, things get stranger still. As reported by WCYB, a local news station in Virginia, some people were apparently putting sunscreen in their eyes so that they could “safely” look at the eclipse.

Nurse Practioner Trish Patterson told WCYB’s sister station, KRCR, that although she hasn’t seen any patients coming in with eclipse-related ocular damage, she has seen a few people come in after dousing their peep holes in a product that is quite clearly just meant to adorn the skin.

As you might have guessed, sunscreen in the eye doesn’t have the same effect as a lens specifically designed to filter out most wavelengths of light. Too little sunscreen and it’ll burn a little as it oozes around the white sclera of your eyeball. Too much, and you just wouldn’t be able to see anything anyway.

Either way, it’d cause you to cry a lot, which only seems appropriate during an eclipse if you’re overcome with emotion.


You can see where these unfortunate few hospital patients were coming from when they decided to squeeze some SPF 20 unguent into their eyes, but this course of action was about as useful and as sensible as using nail varnish on your tongue, or injecting shampoo into your nostrils. Do not do these things.

Maybe eclipses just bring out the oddest behaviors in people. Plenty thought it was a sign of the apocalypse, if Google Trends is anything to go by. One radio host suggested that the highly predictable astronomical event was actually the work of the Prince of Darkness.



spaceSpace and Physics
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