Some odd misconceptions about solar eclipses – debunked

Eclipse Misconceptions

Humans have watched eclipses since before the dawn of written history, and during this long span of time our scientific understanding of the physical world has grown enormously. As a consequence, many of the older ideas we had about the causes and effects of total solar eclipses have been replaced by detailed physical explanations. Nevertheless, some older ideas seem remarkably resistant to replacement by the more scientifically-correct explanations. Here are a few of the most popular ones!

Total solar eclipses produce harmful rays that can cause blindness.

During a total solar eclipse when the disk of the moon fully covers the sun, the brilliant corona emits only electromagnetic radiation, though sometimes with a greenish hue. 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. However, if you watched the sun before totality, you will catch a glimpse of the brilliant solar surface and this can cause retinal damage, though the typical human instinctual response is to quickly look away before any severe damage has actually occurred.

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

This is related to the previous false idea that harmful radiations are emitted during a total solar eclipse. Although the electromagnetic radiation from the corona, seen as light, is perfectly safe, there is another form of radiation that travels to Earth from the sun. Deep in the solar interior where nuclear fusion takes place to light the sun, particles called neutrinos are born, and zip unimpeded out of the sun and into space. They also pass through the solid body of the moon during the eclipse and a second or so later reach Earth and pass through it too! Every second, your body is pelted by trillions of these neutrinos no matter if the sun is above or below the horizon. 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 will poison any food that is prepared during the event.

Related to the false idea of harmful solar rays is that during a total solar eclipse, some kind of radiation is produced that will harm your food. If that were the case, the same radiations would harm the food in your pantry, or crops in the field.  The basic idea is that total solar eclipses are terrifying and their ghostly green coronae look frightening, so it is natural to want to make up fearful stories about them and look for coincidences among events around you. If someone is accidentally food-poisoned with potato salad during an eclipse, some might argue that the event was related to the eclipse itself even though hundreds of other people at the same location were not at all affected.

Eclipses are harbingers of something very bad about to happen.

A classic case of what psychologists call Confirmation Bias is that we tend to remember all the occasions when two things happened together, but forget all of the other times when they did not. This gives us a biased view of causes and effects that we remember easily, because the human brain is predisposed to looking for, and remembering, patterns that can be used as survival rules-of-thumb. Total solar eclipses are not often recorded in the historical record, but they do tend to be recorded when they coincide with other historical events. For example in 763 B.C., early Assyrian records mention an eclipse in the same passage as an insurrection in the city of Ashur, now known as Qal’at Sherqat in Iraq, suggesting that the ancient people linked the two in their minds. Or when King Henry I of England, the son of William the Conqueror, died in A.D. 1133, the event coincided with a total solar eclipse. With a little work you can also find numerous cases when something good happened!

There are no total solar eclipses at Earth’s North or South Poles.

In fact, there is nothing especially unique about these locations from an astronomical standpoint. The last total solar eclipse viewed from the North Pole area was on March 20, 2015 and passed right over the North Pole itself at which time it came to an end exactly at the Spring Equinox! The last total solar eclipse viewed from the South Pole area was on November 23, 2003.

The moon turns completely black during a total solar eclipse.

Although it is difficult to see the New Moon and check out this idea, we don’t actually have to make this difficult observation. Look at the first quarter moon and you will discover that the dark lunar surface beyond the crescent is weakly illuminated. This is because, as viewed from the moon, Earth is very bright in the sky and its weak light is enough to turn the lunar surface a pale milky white. This is  called earthshine, and the same thing applies during a total solar eclipse. Most of Earth’s surface is actually in broad daylight off the path of totality, and from the moon it would be in full phase, shining down on the lunar surface at its brightest. So,  during a total solar eclipse, the lunar surface will be dimly seen due to earthshine, surrounded by the much more brilliant corona of the sun!

The corona of the sun has always been observed during a total solar eclipse

It is hard not to imagine that the way things are now is the way they have always been, but in the case of the sun we can never be too sure. We already know that the familiar 11-year sunspot cycle seemingly ‘vanished’ in the 1700s during what scientists call the Maunder Minimum. There have been a number of accounts of total solar eclipses dating back to the time of the Ancient Greeks, but curiously descriptions of the contemporary corona, which is the most dramatic feature, are either not provided or are only barely mentioned. Poet Archilochus spoke of the total solar eclipse of 6 April 647 B.C.E. and failed to mention the corona “There is nothing beyond hope, nothing that can be sworn impossible, nothing wonderful, since Zeus, father of the Olympians, made night from mid-day, hiding the light of the shining Sun, and sore fear came upon men.”  Johannes Kepler during the eclipse of October 12, 1605 was happy to mention the ‘Red Flames’ visible around the rim of the sun, but no mention of what we now see as a dazzling corona! It wasn’t until the eclipse of May 3, 1715 described by astronomer Edmund Halley from England that we get our first genuine corona description  as a’… luminous ring of pale whiteness’.  So, did the sun go through a thousand-year period of not having a significant corona at all?  We may never know for certain!

Solar Eclipses foretell major life changes and events about to happen

This is a common interpretation found in astrological forecasts, which are themselves based upon coincidences and non-scientific beliefs in how celestial events control human behavior. A common qualification is that if the eclipse doesn’t foretell a change in your life it may foretell a change in that of your friends. This is a logically-flawed used of confirmation bias in which you prove a cause-and-effect relationship by ignoring failures and only consider successful forecasts. There is nothing other than human psychology that connects eclipses with future events in your life.

Solar eclipses are a sign of an exceptional celestial event taking place in time and space.

Actually, because they can be mathematically predicted across thousands of years, solar eclipses are a re-affirmation that there is a sublime clock-work regularity to the universe as Sir Isaac Newton admired over 300 years ago.

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

This is a common belief among astrologers, and once again is only supported by confirmation bias. 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. Among a random sample of people, you may find such correlations from time to time but they are outnumbered by all the other occasions during which your health was excellent.

from NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center:

NOTE: WUWT will carry the eclipse LIVE starting at 9AM EDT on August 21st. The live feed link will publish ahead of that and will be available here:  2 hours prior to the start of programming.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
August 20, 2017 6:11 am

Eclipses will poison any food that is prepared during the event.
Wow 🙂 I guess I’ll prepare a thermos of coffee beforehand, just to be safe. I need my afternoon coffee, or I’ll konk out. 🙂

Reed Coray
Reply to  PaulH
August 20, 2017 9:12 am

PaulH, to keep your coffee extra warm make sure you use one of those newfangled “heat-trapping” CO2 thermos bottles. They’ve been flying off the shelves of stores so fast you may have trouble finding one; but don’t despair, you can always get one directly from the manufacturer.

Reply to  Reed Coray
August 20, 2017 3:33 pm

Are those the ones that boil the liquid inside if you leave them in the Sun?

Reed Coray
Reply to  Reed Coray
August 20, 2017 6:54 pm

No Kpar, they’re modified vacuum thermos bottles where the vacuum space has been flooded with CO2 to trap the heat inside. Doesn’t work; but don’t tell the AGW alarmists–it might shake their faith in the “heat-trapping” nature of CO2 gas.

Reply to  Reed Coray
August 21, 2017 7:26 am

“thermos bottles where the vacuum space has been flooded with CO2 to trap the heat inside”
CO2? Well shouldn’t it warm the liquids inside?

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Reed Coray
August 21, 2017 7:26 pm

I wonder if AlGore has invested in this product.

Reply to  PaulH
August 20, 2017 3:12 pm

Your coffee will always be safe due to metal coating of the glas inset.
Works just like tin foil hats. 🙂

Reply to  petermue
August 21, 2017 5:51 am

Good point, just remember the metallic coating of aluminium is only partially effective, full effect only comes from real tin coatings.

Reply to  PaulH
August 21, 2017 2:53 pm

Carbon Dioxide does irreparable damage to Earth’s biosphere
You wouldn’t happen to subscribe to that belief would you? Maybe you just need more coffee? 🙂

george e. smith
Reply to  PaulH
August 21, 2017 3:03 pm

Well in Silicon valley we only got about an 80 percenter, so ho hum, no need to waste film on any pictures of black disks on top of orange disks.
But while I was visiting my credit union, I punched a hole in an old envelope with one of their free pens, and then invited the staff to come outside and view the eclipse on the back of the cashier’s check they had just printed out for me.
And for an encore I pointed out the hundreds of solar eclipse pictures on the ground from the gaps in the leaves of a nearby tree. Some of those images were six inches in diameter. After I got home, I did take a picture of the tree images in my back yard just to prove I saw it.
And for good measure, while it was about at maximum (10:15 PDT), I gave the finger to the eclipse gods, by looking up at the sun with my bare eyes. Yes I couldn’t see a thing because it was too bright, and my pupils had already closed down to about f/256.
So maybe in about 100 ms I got a solar eclipse burned into my retina. I’ll see if I can recall it some time later.
So lets all get drunk and get ready to watch the lunar eclipse in about 14-15 days. That one you have to wait till night time for.
G g saw it too !

August 20, 2017 6:19 am

The best thing about the solar eclipse is that it will cool off part of the earth for a few minutes, thus delaying, for a brief time at least, catastrophic anthropogenic global warming. So, we have that going for us. 🙂

Reply to  Dave Andrews
August 20, 2017 7:57 am

I wonder if it even registers with the CAGW crowd that the temperature will drop immediately in the path of the totality of the eclipse….you know….even with all other things remaining equal…like the CO2 levels, that “atmospheric blanket” still there etc. Why doesn’t it “prevent” the temperature from dropping during that 2 minute blockage of the Sun’s rays??????
Seems like this whole thing is a gigantic DUH moment that will sail right over their heads…literally…in “sky writing”.

Reply to  Aphan
August 20, 2017 3:35 pm

TWO Minutes? I am counting on 2 minutes AND 35 seconds from where I will be…

george e. smith
Reply to  Aphan
August 21, 2017 3:06 pm

No it won’t, it will take the best part of an hour to go from warm to cool, and another hour to warm back up.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Aphan
August 21, 2017 7:34 pm

Yes Apan, as we watched it from southern IL everyone began remarking about the drop in temperature. I expected the winds to pick up, but everything went quiet. I made a comment to the group “There’s yer outgoing radiation folks” and everybody’s eyes glazed over. We really are dealing with ignorance around us my dear.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Aphan
August 21, 2017 7:36 pm

Sorry, I saw I misspelled your name just as I hit post.

Sandy In Limousin
Reply to  Dave Andrews
August 20, 2017 8:00 am

Probably delay it by the same amount the UK going Carbon neutral will.

Reply to  Dave Andrews
August 20, 2017 12:03 pm

Well, the visual is great and I’m sure lots will enjoy the live feed.
I hope Anthony and plenty of others also does some science on this. This is a once in a lifetime science experiment, we get to turn power off and watch what happens.
We need guys with data loggers capturing the temperature transient at like 10 second intervals and we need radiation measurements from those with the necessary kit.
Great chance to measure the “backradiation” from the sky.

richard verney
Reply to  Greg
August 20, 2017 2:33 pm

Great chance to measure the “backradiation” from the sky.

Some weeks ago, I inquired whether there was any such historic data covering eclipses at various latitudes.
What is the temperature profile of an eclipse, and how has this profile changed from the time when CO2 was say 300 ppm, 320 ppm, 340 ppm, 360, ppm ,380 ppm,, and now 400 ppm.
Obviously one would need to know humidity, time of day and other weather conditions but it would be interesting to know whether there is data suggesting that there may be a change in the temperature profile of eclipses with varying levels of CO2.

Reply to  Greg
August 21, 2017 7:29 am

“We need guys with data loggers capturing the temperature transient at like 10 second intervals”
Why it just gets homogenized.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Greg
August 21, 2017 7:51 pm

I’d bet %RH has increased measurably since the 1918 eclipse.

george e. smith
Reply to  Dave Andrews
August 20, 2017 7:11 pm

The sun and the moon each subtend about 30 arc minutes or about 1/720 of the earth circumference, for the zone of totality, and the track may be about 4,000 miles long or about 1/6th of the circumference.
And the earth is typically 60% covered by clouds, so I wouldn’t look for any evidence of global cooling due to the eclipse. for silicon alley evidently the maximum occlusion is about 80% and the duration from start to finish is around two hours. I’ve been under clouds that lasted more than two hours, so I know it isn’t damgerous.

I Came I Saw I Left
August 20, 2017 6:19 am

Supposedly, chickens have a misconception and head to the coop during solar eclipses.
I think I might put on a welder’s helmet and have a look at it.

Reply to  I Came I Saw I Left
August 20, 2017 7:03 am

Only if the chickens normally come back to the coop on their own. Not all chickens do that. My ducks are supposed to come back to the coop at night, but I often have to look for them unless they are hungry. I’ll have 3 of them free-ranging. I’ll watch to see what they do.

Sweet Old Bob
Reply to  I Came I Saw I Left
August 20, 2017 7:25 am

Shade 13 or darker ….and if your helmet is auto-darkening you are probably out of luck .
And stacking lesser shades is non linear….
Good luck !

I Came I Saw I Left
Reply to  Sweet Old Bob
August 20, 2017 8:47 am

Thanks for the heads-up!

Reply to  Sweet Old Bob
August 20, 2017 4:03 pm


Reply to  I Came I Saw I Left
August 20, 2017 12:07 pm

What do chicken mind-readers think the “misconception” is ?
They run inside to keep warm? They think there is going be a major storm? Or they just think it’s weird and get spooked.
If someone is trying to suggest they “think” it is night time, that is probably his misconception, not the that of the chucks.

I Came I Saw I Left
Reply to  Greg
August 20, 2017 5:28 pm

Yeah they think it’s bed time. Chickens put themselves to bed as the light wanes. Not a hard concept to follow.

Reply to  I Came I Saw I Left
August 20, 2017 12:33 pm

In 1972 up in Nova Scotia I remember all the sea-gulls heading back to their roosts, making quite a racket along the shoreline. Then they all had to do a u-turn.
All the various songbirds sung there evening-morning songs.
The lighting was different from ordinary night, though there were stars in the sky.
The event happens so darn fast that it is ending even before it fully sinks in. I wouldn’t want to be a scientist and have to spend any time taking notes. Just absorb as much as you can.

george e. smith
Reply to  I Came I Saw I Left
August 20, 2017 7:18 pm

Well I punched three holes of different sizes using three different Phillips screw drivers in a piece of manila card, and my wife is going to use those to teach the little kiddies how to watch the eclipse without looking at the sun at all. And I showed her how to put a card in the shadow of a tree with small leaves, to form dozens of images of the sun.
I wouldn’t trust the welders glasses. My sun tried an infra-red film filter on his camera, but infra-red filters let infra red through, and the sun emits plenty of infra-red.
I’m going to use my Questar chromium sun filter and just hold it over my eye sans telescope. It will show me the solar disc achromatically so it doesn’t change the color.

Reply to  george e. smith
August 21, 2017 5:40 pm

George, infra red does not do any damage to eyes it is the higher energy if and visible that is dangerous. An ir filter that let’s in ir radiation? Something’s wrong there. Let’s go back to first principles if you can see something through the filter then it lets light through.

August 20, 2017 6:31 am

“We already know that the familiar 11-year sunspot cycle seemingly ‘vanished’ in the 1700s during what scientists call the Maunder Minimum.”
The Maunder minimum was from about 1645 to about 1715, So it would be more accurate to say “vanished in the 1600s”

Javert Chip
Reply to  Jeannette
August 20, 2017 10:41 am

How ’bout we split the difference and go with “vanished during the seventeenth century”?

August 20, 2017 6:35 am

out of interest, is the size of the moon and its distance from Earth a simple coincidence that produces the apparent 1:1 ratio or could the moon be considerably larger or smaller in the same orbit and still give the same impression.

Reply to  lateintheday
August 20, 2017 6:47 am

It is a marvelous coincidence. If the moon were larger or smaller it would not be true.

Reply to  daveburton
August 20, 2017 7:04 am

many thanks for the reply DB

Reply to  lateintheday
August 20, 2017 7:46 am

a simple coincidence that produces the apparent 1:1 ratio

Some of us know better than to believe in a simple coincidence.

Gunga Din
Reply to  TonyL
August 20, 2017 1:44 pm

“Rare Earth”

george e. smith
Reply to  lateintheday
August 21, 2017 3:13 pm

But the earth is about twice the size of the moon so the lunar eclipse in two weeks won’t be as dramatic; but there are more total lunars than total solars; but plenty of eclipses.
At least five a year, but no more than seven, and they go SMSMSMS or maybe MSMSMSM or just five or six of those.
Yeah they are like 150 year storms; rare as heck, they come about every three of four years.

August 20, 2017 6:39 am

I’m headed out to the western mountains with 12 hours to spare to position myself for the best viewing with least traffic. Clear Skies!!

Hocus Locus
August 20, 2017 7:36 am

Must I wear special glasses to view photographs and video feeds of a solar eclipse?

Reply to  Hocus Locus
August 20, 2017 7:45 am

Yes. 🙂 Steampunk goggles with the lenses spray painted purple. 🙂

steven F
Reply to  Hocus Locus
August 20, 2017 10:34 am

You only need to use them when ay part of the suns surface is visible. When the moon completely blocks the sun you can remove the glasses. Unfortunately the moon only blocks the sun for at most 2 minutes. IN some places the moon will only block out the sun for a few seconds. In most places the moon will not completely cover the sun at all.

george e. smith
Reply to  Hocus Locus
August 21, 2017 3:14 pm

Nah ! Any tree with smallish leaves will make hundreds of eclipse images on the ground for you.

Reply to  george e. smith
August 21, 2017 7:06 pm

That was the neatest thing I saw today! It looked like God’s French Impressionist interpretation of the sun-dappled shadows on the ground.

August 20, 2017 7:36 am

The Moon goddess, Luna, is angry. She has sent her Hell Hounds forth to destroy us all.
The Hounds from Hell will obliterate the Sun, and then come for us next.
Abandon hope, for our Doom is upon us.
You will all die a terrible and fearsome Death!
{Have a nice day.}

Reply to  TonyL
August 20, 2017 8:06 am

Have no fear. There’s are Wiccans on the mountain that will save us!

Reply to  Sheri
August 20, 2017 8:16 am

Thank goodness for that.
I am hoping that a pagan Fertility Rite will be required.

Reply to  Sheri
August 20, 2017 4:13 pm

Bring a broom, just in case.

george e. smith
Reply to  Sheri
August 21, 2017 3:17 pm

Well some pagan fertility rites you wouldn’t want to be a part of. There’s a total horror flick about that . Something along the lines of “The Awful Secret of Harvest Home”. And chants of “Make the Corn.”

Gary Pearse
Reply to  TonyL
August 20, 2017 9:11 am

Thanks but I have other plans.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Gary Pearse
August 20, 2017 9:12 am

(than having a nice day)

Bob boder
August 20, 2017 7:40 am

You left out
Solar eclipses enhance the effects of GHG by a factor of 1000 and the ice sheets will all melt during the eclipse.

Leonard Herr
Reply to  Bob boder
August 20, 2017 7:53 am

No, no, no… it’s going to make the globe cooler for 2 minutes (the Dave Andrew’s Theory). I have a model that proves it, just need some funding to polish it up.

August 20, 2017 7:40 am

Learning why the shadow typically travels West to East was pretty cool.

Javert Chip
Reply to  hunter
August 20, 2017 10:43 am

Only “typically”?

Reply to  Javert Chip
August 20, 2017 12:29 pm

yep , the do it all the time: absolutely typical !

Reply to  Javert Chip
August 20, 2017 12:30 pm

really cool the way the earth turns the same way , typically.

August 20, 2017 7:41 am

At times like these I always try to imagine what the ancients thought when they saw this kind of event. It must have been unnerving for many.

Reply to  TA
August 20, 2017 8:08 am

That always seemed to me to be the most interesting part of an eclipse—the reaction of people who have no knowledge of the workings of the eclipse, just that it gets dark midday as a shadow swallows the sun for a bit.

Reply to  TA
August 20, 2017 9:16 am

Yes, but then there was always an opportunistic wizard who would cast a charm at it, rescue the sun and save everyone from darkness, and be famous and revered for the rest of his life and remembered for generations thereafter.

Reply to  Toby Nixon
August 20, 2017 4:15 pm

Name two.

Javert Chip
Reply to  TA
August 20, 2017 10:45 am

The ancients were told to give more money to priests or bad things would happen (i.e.: take away the sun).
Other than switching “politicians” for “priests”, things have not changed much.

Reply to  Javert Chip
August 24, 2017 9:42 am

Amen. But also add ‘quack scientists’, whether they know it themselves or not.

Reply to  TA
August 21, 2017 5:43 pm

Not really they worked out that the world was round

August 20, 2017 7:57 am

With the path of totality being only 17 miles from my back doorstep and never experiencing totality before, I am more than willing to travel on a congested two-lane highway to get there. Sadly, many in my city of Boise are cancelling plans to avoid the traffic and I find it disheartening. Personally, I can’t hardly wait to stand on the mountaintop and witness the moon’s shadow that will move towards my viewing area and drape itself over the valley and lake below it, watching the glow of the horizon during totality and, of course, all the spectacular phenomena only described to me by those that have been there and done that. Pictures won’t do it justice – you have to be there. The best analogy I have is when I was in S.E. Alaska while commercial fishing one summer – the northern lights gave a show that is beyond comprehension as they were right ABOVE me, not in the distance. The swirls of green, blue, pink, lavender and purple were what seemed to be within my grasp, and the crackling of electricity was noticeably audible. Those few brief minutes were the most memorable of my life and are forever etched in my mind. Not a photograph I have ever seen can compare, not one.
Get into the path of totality if you’ve never been there, you won’t regret it!

Javert Chip
Reply to  StaceyD
August 20, 2017 10:50 am

Why people drive miles in anticipated traffic, smack in the middle of a school & working day to see an astronomical event duplicated once/day (called “dusk”) is amusing.

Reply to  Javert Chip
August 20, 2017 12:05 pm

If you can spot the Corona at dusk, please let the world know!

Reply to  Javert Chip
August 20, 2017 12:33 pm

yeah, all you need to do is close you eyes and you get the same effect, what’s all the fuss?

Reply to  Javert Chip
August 20, 2017 4:20 pm

Not the same, Javert-san! I looked up and there was the sun, way up in the sky, completely visible. I kept watching, and a minute later, as the Irishman said, “There she was. Gone.”

August 20, 2017 8:05 am

King Henry I of England actually died on December 1, 1135 (not 1133).

August 20, 2017 8:12 am

Do not conceive a baby during a solar eclipse!

Reply to  Urederra
August 20, 2017 12:36 pm

It only lasts 2 minutes.

Reply to  u.k.(us)
August 20, 2017 4:21 pm

Time left over for a cigarette, then.

Reply to  u.k.(us)
August 21, 2017 9:36 am

That’s what she said 🙂

Reply to  Urederra
August 20, 2017 12:36 pm

Totality only lasts less than three minutes, quick “conception”. You’d need to get the foreplay done during the penumbral transition. Have extra blankets ready so that you don’t get distracted by the sudden temp drop.

Sandy In Limousin
August 20, 2017 8:16 am

In 1969-70 I was working as a technician in a Scottish University (a new one not one of the Ancient 4*) the Physics department organised a study to Mexico to study a total eclipse at high altitude. This involved a few days camping. When talking about the trip afterwards the main topic was that because of the lack of oxygen they had real problems organising themselves. What caused most joking was that they had a long argument about the length of time it was going to take to hard boil an egg. As far as I recall the solar research when OK.
*Technically there were 5 from 1593 until 1860 unfortunately Scottish education has been badly manged by politicians of all parties and the days of the Dominie and a pride in learning dating back to the 17th century were destroyed in the late 20th early 21st.

August 20, 2017 9:00 am

Enjoy tomorrow, Anthony. Should be quite a show. Weather forecast here has turned iffy thanks to 92L

Gary Pearse
August 20, 2017 9:03 am

Earthshine (anatomy of) : if you X-ray a mineral or other compound crystal, (or organic material for that matter) that is perfectly oriented re selected crystallographic axes and catch the X-rays diffracted by impingement upon the atoms in the crystal onto a photographic plate, you can construct a 3D model of the arrangement of the atoms that constitute the crystal and measure their atomic spacing. You can also identify the compound.
Practically speaking, the most common method is to grind the material sample into a fine powder, which statistically virtually assures that some of the randomly oriented grains will have the perfect orientation to be caught on the photographic target.
Okay, so what about earthshine? Well the surface of the moon is covered with mineral powder and most minerals have a property called cleavage (sexy little things, huh!), which are one or more crystallographic planar orientations along which minerals will split creating tiny mirror-like faces. Similar to the mineral powders above, they will be randomly oriented on the moon’s surface. Earthshine comes to us by the light from earth reflecting off the tiny mirrors oriented in the right direction on the moon to reach our eye! All other directions the light either reaches the eyes of your neighbours or distant viewers. or misses the earth altogether.
There’s more. Because of the nature of these oriented mirrors, the entire moon itself is a flat disc-shaped mirror in so far as concerns our earthshine. This means that, although made fuzzy by some percentage of double or more reflections (earth-mineral plane1-mineral plane2-eye) and obscured by variable brightness on the moon’s surface, we are actually seeing our earth and ourselves (and everybody on our side of the earth) in the mirror! Moreover it is each and everyones own unique personal earthshine view courtesy of the little mirrors that are kindly oriented exactly only for each of us individually. Were we to filter out the variable brightness of the moon and the particularly polarized light caused by double (or more reflections), we should be able to discern the earth’s image.
I hope this makes the moon and science a little more magical for watchers of the moon. Please don’t take risks with viewing the eclipse without certified eyeware. Earthshine doesn’t need an eclipse to be seen – new Moon will do nicely.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Gary Pearse
August 20, 2017 10:05 am

I had intended to speak also of the magic of the eclipse along with my earthshine blurb above. You can see the eclipse images on the sidewalk under a tree! For practice, go outside today and look at the beautiful round images of the sun in the shade of a tree. These arise because of the tiny spaces in the canopy not completely occluded by leaves that act like a pinhole (as in the ‘Baby Brownie” camera of yore ). This casts a real image of the sun (100s of them under a tree). Here’s a science experiment for you and children. Place a ruler with mm divisions on the image oriented to measure the minimum diameter (angle of incidence gives an ellipse in northerly locations) and take a smart phone picture of ut. Now catch this same image on a piece of cardboard and ascend a step ladder (safely with someone holding it steady) and rephotograph the image with the ruler for measurement. Now you can calculate the height of the pinhole above the sidewalk by drawing a triangle with the diameter measured on the sidewalk as the base, the second diameter measured from the ladder and the height above sidewalk of the the second diameter and complete the triangle to get the height of the pinhole. If you measured the diameter in centimeters, you measure the heights in centimetres. Now, the first magic:the distance to the sun is 15 trillion centimeters (about one trillion American dollars end to end which gives you an idea of the magnitude of the federal debt at 20trillion!). Going on with our calculation, we can now construct a proportional triangle with the apex at the same pinhole and the base as the diameter of the sun 15 trillion centimeters away. Using proportional triangles you will get a diameter of the sun of approx. 1.5 x 10^11cm or about 1.5mulliin km. (actual 1.4 etc.)
The second magic: when the eclipse is in progress, you can see the disc gradually be intruded upon and the development of a crescent an finally the peak and decline of it all on the sidewalk!

Reply to  Gary Pearse
August 20, 2017 11:23 am

A solid metal pasta colander will provide the same effect. Best is to make a pinhole viewer. Many instruction versions presently available with simple searchs. Pizza box, cereal box, show box,…

Reply to  Gary Pearse
August 20, 2017 12:41 pm

Really neat image to be had from light through trees or bushes. Bamboo is great if you find a bunch of it.
Each spot of light between the leaves makes a crescent on the ground. Hundreds of crescents, really cool effect.

August 20, 2017 9:23 am

Some powerful elixirs and potions MUST be prepared during an eclipse. Otherwise they don’t have a magical effect.

Rob Dawg
August 20, 2017 9:30 am

> The moon turns completely black during a total solar eclipse.
> Although it is difficult to see…during a total solar eclipse, the lunar surface will be dimly seen due to earthshine, surrounded by the much more brilliant corona of the sun!
“There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it’s all dark.”
Everything you need to know you can learn from rock lyrics.

August 20, 2017 9:39 am

I never heard of any of these aunt sallies before you propped em up to knock them down..
Faux news?

Reply to  Leo Smith
August 20, 2017 10:42 am

Yes, I can’t say i’d heard of any of them either, so I did not spend long reading any “debunking”.
How about all women in the path of the eclipse start menstruating simultaneously ? That one must be true !

Reply to  Greg
August 20, 2017 10:55 am

“In the days preceding a total eclipse, people will go mad, stabbing strangers in the street and running them over with ox-carts and other forms of transport.”
This pre-sages the end times.

Reply to  Greg
August 20, 2017 8:54 pm

All the statues will fall

August 20, 2017 10:02 am

In 1598, during Shakespeare’s lifetime, England experienced a total solar eclipse, with the path of totality tracking from Cornwall in the southwest up to Aberdeen in Scotland. And at the time it was understood that the sun was being obscured by the moon
An eclipse as an ill omen
“These late eclipses in the sun and moon
portend no good to us. Though the wisdom of
nature can reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds
itself scourged by the sequent effects.”
—Gloucester in King Lear (1.2.109)
The physical darkness of an eclipse as a metaphor for psychological darkness
“My wife, my wife! What wife? I have no wife.
O insupportable! O heavy hour!
Methinks it should be now a huge eclipse
Of sun and moon, and that th’ affrighted globe
Should yawn at alteration.”
—Othello in Othello (5.2.121)
An eclipse as that which mars beauty
“No more be grieved at that which thou hast done.
Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud;
Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun,
And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud.”
—Sonnet 35

Reply to  tom0mason
August 20, 2017 11:02 am

“In the times before an eclipse
Men will not know they are men
Women will not know that they are women
Many will be known to use the wrong bathroom”
— Fall of Nations : (08.2017)

August 20, 2017 11:14 am

Here are some more tales for you…
An eclipse was seen as the Sun and Moon gods in ‘flagrante delicto’. A syzygy union of the cosmic bodies, which produced a ‘diamond marriage ring’ in the heavens above, and the next generation of godlets. Even Jesus and Mary were seen as the divine heavenly bodies in a cosmic union, surrounded by the 12 diciple months, or constellations of the zodiac.
The 6th century calendrical zodiac at the Lady Mary monastery, depicting Jesus and Mary.comment image
The Snow White fable portrays exactly the same event. Snow White is the snow-white moon, who is followed by her seven dwarf planets, who follow her in a long line, just as they do in the heavens above. The evil witch gives Snow White a corset, which she tightens until she makes Snow White so slim she faints – just as the waning Moon gets slimmer and slimmer as she approaches the Sun, as if constrained by a cosmic corset.
The seven dwarf planets follow Snow White Moon in a long line across the ecliptic.
Then the Moon goes black and lifeless as it approaches the Sun, just as everyone thinks Snow White is dead. But along comes the prince charming Sun, and kisses the dead and black Snow White Moon, and she comes back to life. The Moon was not dead after all. Then they embrace each other in a solar eclipse, creating a diamond marriage ring, which makes Snow-White-Moon get fatter and fatter, as if newly pregnant with a child of the cosmos.
All religions and most mythology, are tales of the cosmos.

Reply to  ralfellis
August 20, 2017 11:47 am

Wow, I’d never heard that one before. Just shows how you “interpret” stuff any way if you want to.
I thought Snow White was a smutty joke parodying the idea that stumpy guys are often well hung. There is lots of double entendre in supposedly innocent “children stories”.
when I was a child I loved a british cartoon called Captain Pugwash, which we used to get on the telly. His first officer was called Master Bates. I had no idea that the devious writers were pissing themselves with laughter at getting this on the air in squeaky clean 1970s BBC.

Captain Dart
Reply to  Greg
August 20, 2017 11:05 pm

Other characters were supposedly Roger the Cabin Boy and Seaman Staynes.
Gotta go, my horse naturally won, and I’m flying my Learjet up to Nova Scotia to see the (partial) eclipse of the sun.

Reply to  Greg
August 21, 2017 11:04 am

Greg, Captain Dart,
I can change the Wiki truth machine [/sarc, mods!]; but I have just down loaded this from their article on Captain Pugwash [ accessed about 1800Z 21 August 2017]: –
“Libel case regarding double entendres
There is a persistent urban legend, repeated by the now defunct UK newspaper the Sunday Correspondent, that ascribes sexually suggestive names – such as Master Bates, Seaman Staines, and Roger (meaning “have sex with”) the Cabin Boy – to Captain Pugwash’s characters, and indicating that the captain’s name was a slang Australian term for oral sex.[3] The origin of this myth is likely due to student rag mags from the 1970s.[4]
John Ryan successfully sued both the Sunday Correspondent and The Guardian newspapers in 1991 for printing this legend as fact.[5]”
It is a good story, but only a story – not true at all.
Auto, a little sad that the story was not [even partially] true. But there we are.
Just nipping out to see if the confounded clouds allow any viewing of the Sun here in London.

Reply to  Greg
August 21, 2017 11:06 am

Eight eighths. So not a chance of seeing anything here.

Reply to  ralfellis
August 20, 2017 11:49 am

The fascinating thing about the Monasterial zodiac from the 6th century is that it’s obvious that the artists simply took the pre-christian “pagan” zodiac, with its collection of old gods and demigods, and plugged Christian saints into their places. Other that that it’s the same old thing as always.
For me, I think I’m just going to enjoy playing an old Cat Stevens song, “Moon shadow, moon shadow.”

Reply to  wws
August 20, 2017 1:35 pm

>>the artists simply took the pre-christian “pagan”
>>zodiac, and plugged Christian saints
Or Jesus’ disciples. A man and woman surrounded by twelve subbordinate men, can only be Jesus, Mary and the twelve disciples.
Since this calendrical zodiac is on the Sea of Galilee, no doubt they took the design from the Hamat Teverya zodiac at Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee.

Reply to  wws
August 20, 2017 4:37 pm

Saints? Disciples? Apostles? Maybe, but the figures are plainly labeled with the months of the year.

Reply to  wws
August 21, 2017 1:21 am

>>months of year.
Do you really think a monastery could admit that the 12 disciples were really symbolic of the 12 constellations? That would have been a huge heresy, worthy of a slow roasting.
But this is highly likely. The Hamat Teverya zodiac on the Sea of Galilee is a 1st century zodiac, and we know this because the position of the constellations mark the 1st century and the zodiac is mentioned by Josephus Flavius. And the person who burned down the synagogue to protect the zodiac was Jesus (of Gamala). (Josephus had been sent to destroy the zodiac, because it contained pictures of animals.)

Reply to  wws
August 21, 2017 11:11 am

wws, ralfellis,
What we see of July does – to my inexpert eye – have something of the look of the ‘Et tu, Brutus?’ chap from the first century BC.
August may have some similarities with the adopted son, but, again, that may be my mentioned lack of expertise becoming obvious.

August 20, 2017 11:47 am

Thank you, sir, for live casting. It’s on my calendar now.
Two notes on the list: 1) During a solar eclipse, you might not notice that odd color to your potato salad, and therefore come down sick. 2) The lunar disk may appear completely black to human vision; it depends on your vision, the cloud cover on the still lit portion of the Earth, size of the corona, etc. Much like facing an idiot with his high beams on at night, everything else may be dark to your perception. (Note that even if the Earth were black, somehow, there would still be starlight reflection, which of course our poor human eyes cannot see at all.)
One thing missing from the list – I am appalled at the thinking that the entire US will be in the eclipse path. At my wife’s work (a school), they are going to be running the “rainy day” schedule – i.e., all of the children will be kept indoors all day. They worry that all of the little darlings will run out and stare at the Sun, damaging their eyes. So, instead of using this as an educational experience, teaching them about solar eclipses, and why my area will not see a single thing (SE Arizona – way out of the path of even the slightest partial) – they will only reinforce the notion that they are somehow dangerous. (I had to apologize to the spouse for my reaction when she told me that. Not her idea, of course, but I couldn’t help a bit of a rant…)

Steve Fraser
Reply to  Writing Observer
August 20, 2017 12:39 pm

Sorry to inform you, but the partial eclipse will be visible where you live. Check out the nice 3-D animation from the JPL at
For those that care, the eclipse will visible, over the entire north american continent, and much more.

Steve Fraser
Reply to  Steve Fraser
August 20, 2017 12:52 pm

Here is another site easier to manipulate. Put a pin down anywhere you care to, and it will tell you when the partial begins and ends, and the mac occlusion.

Reply to  Steve Fraser
August 21, 2017 1:11 am

My bad, sir… You are correct. You would think I had learned at my age to not ever look at MSM!
I believe that the rant still applies, however. Way back when I was in elementary school (1960s), they turned a partial into quite the educational event.
I may or may not bother with a pinhole here; I think Anthony’s live feed under the totality path will probably be far more interesting.

August 20, 2017 11:52 am

Here is one more take on tomorrow’s eclipse: The sign of Jonah, the great eclipse of 2017 and the tearing down of statues.

R.S. Brown
August 20, 2017 12:21 pm

Aside from ocean tides responding to the sun-moon alignment, is there
anyone monitoring the earth tides that occur during the total
solar eclipse?

Reply to  R.S. Brown
August 20, 2017 12:55 pm

Well that is a very light weight account of the “gravitational effects”. Firstly it is a billiard ball , point mass calculation and does not even recognise the considerable gravitational gradient from one side of the earth to the other which accounts for the tidal force. That is inv. cube and the moon becomes the dominant player, contrary to what their figures suggest.
If the ground bulges up it is not because of simply gravity but because of the gravity gradient.

Reply to  R.S. Brown
August 20, 2017 12:58 pm

Tidal forces will not be anything special. There is a similar alignment every month as you link says. It has to be exact in line for an eclipse but that make minimal difference to the forces. What does make a difference is the eccentricity of the lunar orbit and the phase: perigee/apogee etc.

August 20, 2017 12:53 pm

I read a lot of information here and I did not know anything about it
thank you for this post

August 20, 2017 6:41 pm

I have heard the news tell folks that they should bring their dogs and cats in or they could go blind. Even close the window blinds. Some MD has told folks not to take selfies because the UV will reflect off their phone and damage their eyes.
The stupid is strong out there.

August 20, 2017 7:10 pm

I was watching the Science Channel a few minutes ago and they were having a special on tomorrow’s eclipse, and one thing they said struck me. They said when the Moon totally blocks the Sun’s light, the temperature on the ground will immediately drop up to 20 degrees, and then they said it would take hours for the temperatures to recover back to what they were before totality.
Drop 20 degrees C immediately, and takes hours to recover. Interesting.

Reply to  TA
August 20, 2017 7:12 pm

That should be F not C.

August 20, 2017 8:48 pm

You forgot to add that if it is cloudy, that is much less than spectacular. In fact it will look like a storm is approaching and there will be no darkness… There were clouds and it was drizzly…. when I drove 300+ miles to Perry FLORIDA in 1970…just sayin…

Reply to  J. Philip Peterson
August 20, 2017 8:50 pm

You have to have a clear, cloudless sky…

August 20, 2017 9:33 pm

When the moon is near enough, you get a total eclipse. When it is far away, you get an annular eclipse. – that is if you are lucky enough to be in the right spot for these scenarios.
But you can also get an annular eclipse if you should happen to be in the right spot on the moon, as the refraction of the earth’s atmosphere makes it possible to see the edge of the sun all around the edge of the earth. It would be a very red annular eclipse, as you are effectively seeing the sun through two sunsets/sunrises!

August 21, 2017 10:53 am

Minor point
Henry I of England died in 1135, not 1133.
I have no idea if any of the eclipses of 1135 were visible in England.

August 22, 2017 5:11 pm

put your clockworks away ‘g Henry I of England, the son of William the Conqueror, died in A.D. 1133, the event coincided with a total solar eclipse’
yes by
” if i was the atom, split me into three ”
cradle rock
watt odds
Sir isaac Newton admired Rory gallagher
This is a common belief among astrologers,
hot tub time machine

Verified by MonsterInsights