• Why is it that you can look at a lunar eclipse with the bare eye but not the solar eclipse?


    Question:

    I have a science project and have decided to focus on the eye in relation to solar and lunar eclipses. Why is it that you can look at a lunar eclipse with the bare eye but not the solar eclipse?


    Answer:

    In a lunar eclipse, the earth passes between the sun and the moon; making the moon invisible to an observer on earth because there are no light rays reflected off the moon. Even when looking at the moon immediately before or after the eclipse, the reflected light off the moon does not have the same potential for damage as during a solar eclipse.

    In a solar eclipse, however, the moon passes between the earth and the sun; making the sun momentarily invisible. Looking at the sun either before or after the eclipse for any period of time can lead to damage. On a regular day, the brightness of the light makes people unable to stare at the sun and thus avert the damage from the radiation. However during a solar eclipse, a person may get a false sense of security thinking that no damage is occurring because the brightness is much less, but still tremendous radiation emanates from the sun during this period of time. Unfortunately, if you do not protect your eyes during an eclipse using special solar eclipse glasses (search online for these), you can suffer a burn of the retina manifesting in a blind spot.


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