Lunar Eclipse 2021: Is it safe to watch lunar eclipse with naked eye?

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Lunar Eclipse 2021: The internet is buzzing about the longest partial lunar eclipse or Chandra Grahan in 580 years that is set to occur on November 19 and will last for 3 hours 28 minutes and 24 seconds. 

It will be visible in India at 2:34 pm but only few areas in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam will experience the last fleeting moments of the partial eclipse just after the moonrise, Director of Research and Academic at MP Birla Planetarium Debiprosad Duari had told PTI.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon moves into the Earth’s shadow. This happens when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are exactly or very closely aligned with Earth between the other two, and only on the night of a full moon. The partial eclipse will start at 12.48 pm and end at 4.17 pm.

ALSO READ: Near-total lunar eclipse, or Chandra Grahan, tonight sets up for a ‘good month for skywatching’

Myths surrounding lunar eclipse

Lunar eclipse, a celestial event is considered inauspicious in various cultures around the world and people are advised not to watch it with naked eye or eat food during Chandra Grahan. Some cultures also believe one should not sleep during the eclipse and take bath with cold water with clothes on to ward off any negative effect.

Is it safe to watch lunar eclipse?

In India too, it is not considered auspicious to watch eclipses. But is it safe to watch lunar eclipse from medical point of view? 

According to experts, it is perfectly safe to watch lunar eclipse with naked eye unlike solar eclipse that could damage the macula of the retina and the person might lose vision on the centre part of the eyes.

“Unlike solar eclipse, lunar eclipse can cause no damage. In the case of solar eclipse patients may become partially blind or lose a significant amount of vision if they look at it, but a lunar eclipse is quite safe, and it can be seen with naked eye,” says Dr Sandeep Kataria, Consultant Opthalmologist, Wockhardt Hospital.

Moon is safe to look at unlike sun that have strong UV rays, infrared rays and very strong illumination light.

“Moon is not a strong source of light and reflects only the light of the sun. While looking at lunar eclipse is not dangerous but avoid watching it when it is ending as sun is very close to the moon, and sunlight being strong can affect the eyes,” says Dr Aarti Nangia, Head of Department, Ophthalmology, Fortis Hospital Vasant Kunj (TSA).

People who want to exercise extra caution can watch lunar eclipse wearing sunglasses, says Dr Kataria.

What is solar eclipse retinal damage

“Solar eclipse can cause a certain amount of damage on the macula of the retina and the person loses vision on the centre part of the vision and would be able to see the peripheral visual field but not the centre in case of solar eclipse retinal damage, but it will be like a black spot in the centre that’s because the solar rays have damaged the macula (the centre part of the retina). In lunar eclipse there’s no such strong reason to damage the centre part,” says Dr Kataria.

The retinal damage can happen also if we look at a strong source of light otherwise also. “When we focus at an object with bright light, our most delicate area called retina or macula can be harmed which is called macular burn,” says Dr Nangia.

In nutshell, watching lunar eclipse is not expected to cause any harm to your eyes.

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