Anita was in a fix. She was going to have her first baby some time in late July and she was very tense. Not because she was a first- time mother but because she feared that her baby would be born on the day of the solar eclipse.
An MBA graduate and an employee of an MNC, Anita was merely bowing to the pressures of seniors at home and she certainly did not want anything to go wrong. She persuaded her gynecologist to pre pone her delivery a day before the eclipse despite the good doctor assuring her that there was no truth in these well -fabricated myths.
Solar eclipse is a natural phenomenon that occurs when the moon comes in between the sun and the earth, blocking light from the sun. This casts a huge shadow on the earth. During this time the sun's corona becomes clearly visible.
Other planets like the Mercury and Venus too come between the sun and the earth but they are too far away to cause an impact. The moon on the other hand is 400 times closer to the earth and during the solar eclipse they look equal -sized.
Solar Eclipse has been traditionally observed as an ominous sign and therefore superstitions abound in association with this natural phenomenon.
• Depending on the culture, it is believed that during the eclipse the sun is swallowed by demons, dragons or devilish dogs.
• Pregnant women have traditionally been coaxed to stay indoors and not to cut vegetables (and such like) if they wanted healthy babies without congenital anomalies
• Pregnant women are also prevented from sewing so that they do not have deformed children
• People lock themselves indoors to avoid the bad rays of the eclipsed sun
• Some people cleanse themselves in holy rivers during an eclipse
• There are many who do not cook on an eclipse day because they believe that germs abound during this time
Already the Indian astrolgers are predicting doom and disaster as a consequence of the solar eclipse not only in India , but in China and the South East. They have predicted communal tensions and political assassinations.
The Rational Challenge
The rational and the scientifically- inclined have all along challenged the superstitions that exist and are willing to predict otherwise.
They plan to further educate the general public and have already persuaded them to do away with false beliefs and treat the eclipse as a natural phenomenon.
Having allayed their fears, people have been coming out in large numbers in the recent years to view the eclipse - so much so that the Scientific forum's Tamil Nadu chapter soon ran out of supply of solar filters.
People are even traveling long distance to view this once- in -a- lifetime spectacle. A Delhi-based organisation, SPACE which is striving to make science and astronomy popular among young people, is taking interested folks to Varanasi (in Uttar Pradesh) and to Sasaram (near Patna) in the state of Bihar to view the solar eclipse.
Boeing 737-700 has been chartered by Cox and Kings to enable people to view the eclipse from a 'sun side' seat at 41,000 feet, on a three hour flight from Delhi. To the privileged few, who have paid 1,600 dollars to drink in this spectacle, experts will explain the goings on. There is a 90% chance of viewing the eclipse on this flight while there is only a 40% chance on the ground.
1. Watch the eclipse through specially made viewing glasses or through solar filters designed to view the sun. The pin- hole projection method is the safest way.
2. Remember that the sun's rays can impair or cause permanent eye damage when viewed through the naked eye
3. Avoid watching the solar eclipse through binoculars or telescope
4. Avoid watching the eclipse using sunglasses, smoked glass, black-and-white film, colour film or negatives
5. Always watch the solar eclipse under the guidance of experts
Dr. REEJA THARU/M