This afternoon, August 21st 2017, there will be a solar eclipse, meaning that from the vantage point of the Earth the Moon will pass in front of the Sun. While there is usually one or more at least partial solar eclipse in a given year, this one is notable for being visible in North America with many parts of the US being able to observe the total eclipse. Here in Gatineau, Quebec I will be observing only a partial solar eclipse. How about you? Sailor Moon is no stranger to solar eclipses! The Dead Moon Circus first appears during a total solar eclipse which is visible from Tokyo. Unfortunately for fans in Japan, it will be night time during the eclipse and they will be unable to observe it as the Earth will be in the way.
This got me to wonder about what someone on the Moon might see during a solar eclipse. I previously toyed with a similar idea when I wondered what a lunar eclipse would look like from the Moon. Since Princess Serenity lived on the Moon from birth to adolescence and always had a view of the Earth in the sky she likely observed quite a few lunar and solar eclipses during her life. Due to the nature of a solar eclipse it would always appear during a “full Earth” from the vantage point of the Moon and the shadow would always be visible from that side. In this case, as the digitally altered photo above illustrates, the observer on the Moon would see a small shadow on the Earth as only a part of it is obscured at any time. With most of the shadow still being partly illuminated by the sun which is only partially blocked by the Moon, there wouldn’t be a clear demarcation but rather a gradually darkening spot. To create the photo above I used an actual image of a solar eclipse seen from space which I got from NASA. Since this photo wasn’t of today’s eclipse, because time travel doesn’t exist yet, the image has the shadow on Australia even though the eclipse will not be visible from Australia this time around. Instead the shadow of this year’s eclipse will be seen on the United States, where the total eclipse will be visible.
Artist Pat Rawlings imagined what the the August 2017 eclipse would look like if seen from the Moon back in 1989. (Print available here) It was his hope at the time that by now someone would be on the Moon to observe it, but sadly this is not the case.
Looking back at Sailor Moon SuperS episode 128 I noticed a few humorous things. While many of the main characters are wearing the appropriate protective eye wear to view the eclipse, this is not true of all people. Usagi and others have a protective sheet to look through while some people have glasses. Indeed there are many such glasses, many made out of cardboard and a special film which blocks most of the sun’s rays, which are adequate for viewing an eclipse. As a tip if you can see pretty much anything with your shades, they aren’t fit for viewing the sun! This said there are quite a few people in this episode who appear to have no concern with staring at the sun. This is at once a bad idea and simply difficult to do. Staring at the sun during a partial eclipse is pretty much like staring at the sun during any normal time. It hurts your eyes and your instinct would be to turn away. With many of the business men and women in Sailor Moon seen simply putting their hand on near their forehead I wonder what exactly they’re looking at. This is a move that is usually done to protect one’s eyes from the sun, but the thing that they are conceivably looking at is the sun itself so something just isn’t adding up.
Luna and Artemis, usually the voices of reason in the series, appear to have no eclipse protection. Surely it would have been suspicious for a couple of cats to be wearing glasses but in this case they are simply staring at the fully eclipsed sun with no protection whatsoever. Shouldn’t they be going blind? Not really. It’s actually safe to look at the fully eclipsed sun however for most people this isn’t advisable as it isn’t terribly easy to tell when the sun is fully eclipsed and safe vs. when it’s only partially eclipsed and potentially damaging to one’s eyes.
A reminder that I do a weekly science and skepticism podcast called The Reality Check. In the latest episode Cristina talks all about eclipse myths including the real and fictional risks of looking at the sun. I managed to slip a reference to the Dead Moon Circus into the show!
Are you watching the eclipse today? Be sure to check out the NASA web site for all the details about it.