Like many Americans, President Trump on Monday gazed at the first solar eclipse in a century to cross the continental United States, coast to coast. But at one point he appeared to ignore precautions that scientists and doctors warned were necessary to protect people's eyes during the celestial event.
Then he tilted his head upward and pointed toward the sky, prompting a White House aide standing beneath the balcony to shout, “Don't look,” according to the press pool. It is unclear if Trump looked directly at the sun, but photos of the moment have already become an object of derision.
As Blaine Friedlander wrote in The Washington Post, the first rule of enjoying a solar eclipse is to never look directly at the sun without eclipse glasses, because it could damage the eyes, advice that Trump's daughter Ivanka also gave her Twitter followers.
According to NASA, "Looking directly at the sun is unsafe except during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse ('totality'), when the moon entirely blocks the sun’s bright face, which will happen only within the narrow path of totality.
"The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as 'eclipse glasses' ... or hand-held solar viewers."
As The Post's Amy Wang reported, staring at the sun can cause a condition called solar retinopathy, which leads to a decrease or a distortion of a person's central vision, according to Sveta Kavali, an ophthalmologist and retina specialist at Saint Louis University.
“That damage is typically irreversible, and there's no treatment for this,” Kavali said in a Saint Louis University video about viewing the eclipse safely.
Trump eventually put on special viewing glasses and watched the solar eclipse for about 90 seconds.
The eclipse was the first since the founding of the republic that passed directly over only this country, and it traversed a 3,000-mile path, from Oregon through Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina, before finally disappearing off the coast of Charleston, S.C., at 2:49 p.m. Eastern time.
The solar eclipse's journey from coast to coast was over in 90 minutes.
Also spotted on the Truman Balcony on Monday afternoon were Ivanka Trump, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and counselor Kellyanne Conway.