PAWTUXET VILLAGE — Astronomers of all stripes had their telescopes pointed at the Sun Monday for a view of the Transit of Mercury, an event people won’t witness again until 2049, and Astronomy enthusiast Jason Major, on the Pawtuxet River Bridge with his telescope, made sure passers-by got a look.
Major set up his telescope on the Pawtuxet River bridge early Monday with a small chalkboard sign advertising the safe peek at the Sun as Mercury, the planet closest to the Sun, passed across our view of the star over the course of about five hours.
Looking directly at the sun with the naked eye can damage your vision under normal conditions, Major explained. With optical aids such as telescopes, the the risks include permanent damage to your vision and the likely loss of whichever eye you’re using. That’s why he he had a filter on his telescop to provide a safe view for himself and people stopping to have a look through his telescope, Major said.
An accident earlier in the day illustrated the danger of unfiltered, magnified views of the Sun. Major said he briefly took the filter off his telescope to use it on his camera, and forgot to move his telescope away from the Sun for a few moments. The direct, magnified light burned a spot into the viewing lens he had on the telescope.
Major produced the lens, showing a blackened, melted section.
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