March 3, 2014
Back when I was still in grade school, there was a major eclipse. It was a huge event, one that comes once every century or so. That day, it was rumored that teachers were not going to let students go out for recess due to the risks that were potentially associated with looking up at it. Fortunately, they relented and students were allowed to go out and play. We were also allowed to take a piece of paper out to look through to provide a light filter for us, though we were still asked to use sunglasses if we had them. I did not, and I really could not see through the paper all that well, so in all my infinite wisdom as the young grade school student that I was, I took a chance and looked up at the eclipse with my naked eyes.
My friends often joke that this was what has caused me to have so many vision problems, and they may well be right.
I still remember the very sight of it burning me, my eyes instantly watering and causing no small amount of discomfort, though I hesitate to call it pain. Still, I was left in awe. I had seen something that so few others ever would. Children born just after that event would likely never see something like it in all their lives. In some ways, I liken it to looking up into the face of a mighty god and having them look back at me.
Of course, now – more than two decades later – there are much safer ways of looking up into the eye of Helios. For example, check out the Helioviewer Project. This incredible application allows users to look up at the sun from the comfort and safety of their homes and see it in a whole new light. Check it out for yourselves, I cannot recommend doing so highly enough. As part of the application, you can ask it to record you a video of what the sun is currently doing at that very moment. Do it. I did, and what I saw was incredible. I could see streams of energy, almost like a series of Ley Lines, running across the surface of the sun, their incredible power surging and ebbing every few seconds. I could see the sun roiling, as though containing a great force just below its surface, and could not help but be completely awestruck by what I was seeing. This is incredible. This is a miracle of the modern, bringing the splendor of our life-giving star to our very homes for our own pleasure and education. Now imagine this project as a learning tool in the classroom. The side-by-side comparison to Earth that they have in the lower left corner of the image gives a clearer indication to me of just how miniscule our entire planet is compared to the awesome might and power of the sun than any textbook or film presentation every has.
I mean it. Stop what you are doing right now and check this out. I promise you that you will not be disappointed.