The employees of NASA seem to spend a not-insignificant amount of their time debunking misconceptions ranging from minor to downright bananas. Today—on the occasion of our Great American Solar Eclipse 2017 Bonanza—is a big day for them.
Pittsburgh’s local CBS affiliate, KDKA, points to NASA’s rundown of myths about the eclipse which they want you to know are false. For instance, any pregnant woman concerned about solar radiation can go back to worrying about the umpteen million other things that the pregnancy books have you worrying about. Your fetus will be fine:
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.
Your food? Also fine: “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.” But if somebody gets food poisoning from the combination of sun and egg salad during the eclipse, it won’t be thanks to anything cosmic.
They also insist that the eclipse is NOT an omen, despite what you might have heard from your local astrologer.
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.
Nope—not even if the eclipse occurs in the calendrical vicinity of your birthday.
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.
Now all you have to worry about are all the other bad things that could happen.