Staring at the Sun

As the nation gears up for Monday’s Great American Eclipse, I wanted to share my experience staring at the sun last year in Antananarivo, Madagascar.

The day after we arrived there was a little excitement in the streets. I couldn’t read the French or Malagasy newspapers, but the solar eclipse was the headline of the day. Little kids ran around wearing funny looking sunglasses designed to protect their eyes. The sky was a bit overcast, so I was worried we would miss it. Around midday, the wind seemed to pick up and the clouds ominously thickened. Almost on cue, the wind stopped as the edge of the moon crept over the underside of the Sun.

The sky was a bit overcast, so I was worried we would miss it. Around midday, the wind seemed to pick up and the clouds ominously thickened. Almost on cue, the wind stopped as the edge of the moon crept over the underside of the Sun.

You could tell almost immediately that something strange was happening. The lighting of the entire town just seemed off, like someone dialed down a dimmer switch on the sky. It never got dark like night, but there was no mistaking that sunlight was being blocked from high above. The overcast sky actually helped articulate the contrast of the moon in front of the Sun.

For about an hour I did what I could to document the penumbra of the moon. Everyone should know that you don’t stare straight into the Sun. It’ll burn your retinas and can cause serious long term damage. But what about fleeting glimpses? Well, let’s just say I took a lot of fleeting glimpses so you don’t have to. I really should have grabbed one of those funny looking sunglasses. Don’t do what I did.

Using a broken pair of sunglasses as a cheap filter hack, I spent the next hour or so mixing and matching exposure and shutter settings to see what worked. It was a lot of trial and error, and I don’t recommend doing so without more of a plan than I had. By the time it was done I actually felt nauseous from staring at the sun. I got some cool pics though, and my eyes eventually returned to normal. I hope you enjoy my sacrifice!

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