An intersting report surfaces via the Irish Times. Recent supposed appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) have been following the pattern made famous at Fatima - namely word gets around, lots of people turn up and then they claim to see the sun dancing around in the sky. October the 31st saw 10 000 people attending and an earlier appearance on the 11th of October also saw large numbers. At both gatherings people claimed to see the sun shimmering, changing colour and dancing in the sky.
Joe Coleman, described as a local visionary, has predicted that the BVM will put in another appearance this Saturday - the 5th of December. Police have previously asked people to keep away and perhaps some of the locals feel the same way too - as a precaution the pubs are closed and Knock becomes dry.
So what is the problem? Well people are quite naturally looking at the sun attempting to get their own view of a miracle. Some are then presenting themselves to University Hospital Galloway with vision problems. Dr Eamonn O'Donoghue, consultant opthalmologist reports that they have witnessed five recent cases of solar retinopathy (damage to the retina from prolonged exposure to the sun - i.e. from staring at it). This might not seem like a tidal wave of vision problems but the hospital would normally be suprised if they were presented with one case per year.
From the Irish Times
“These people came in because they have had a significant reduction
in their vision and they could very well be a smaller representative
sample,” Dr O’Donoghue said, adding that two of those who had presented
to the hospital had also reported that other members of their families
had suffered visual damage.
“It can potentially lead to blindness
with prolonged exposure,” Dr O’Donoghue said. While he was unaware how
the events were organised, he said, it would be “profoundly
irresponsible” for anyone to encourage people to stare at the sun.
“If you stare at the sun for long enough you’re going to get some
visual disturbances. Not only will you get reduced vision but also a
condition called metamorphopsia,” he said, adding that this could
explain such visual alterations.
“Since the time of Galileo people have known that looking directly at the sun can do damage to your eyes,” Dr O’Donoghue added.
Personally I would have thought the dangers of staring at the sun were known long before Galileo! And in closing - I could have illustrated this post with a picutre of the sun but you might have looked at it and who knows what problems that could have led to...