Posted on August 3, 2017
North America had its last total solar eclipse of the 20th century on February 26, 1979. My 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Love, told the class the next one would be in 2017. My 9 year-old brain almost had a meltdown trying to imagine how far in the future that would be; I remember when I was five thinking 20 was old.
Decades passed, and among many things that happened, Dr. Paul Bach-y-rita invented the BrainPort device made by Wicab, and over time I became one of their primary testers.
I late summer, 2009 I wondered if the BrainPort could show me the moon, it could and I saw 3 lunar eclipses over 2014-15.
I then began to think hey maybe I could see the upcoming solar eclipse too, , so last Friday I successfully looked at the sun using the BrainPort device. I had to stand with my face pointing almost straight up which was quite uncomfortable and made me slightly dizzy, but maybe I could use a chaise lounge and lay almost flat.
The sun was round and quite small, seemingly smaller than I remember the moon being. The interesting thing is that to see the sun I had to turn invert mode on, which means the BrainPort would show me dark objects on a light background. When I tried looking at the sun with invert off, which means the BrainPort would show me light objects on a dark background; the bright sunlight completely overloaded the camera sensor. Conversely, when looking at the moon, invert mode needs to be off.
I remember when looking at the lunar eclipse in September 2015, for a time there were clouds almost covering the moon. With invert off, I could see the moon; with invert on, I could see the clouds. The clouds visually seemed to be almost touching the moon, though I knew the moon was over 200000 miles away, maybe one of the most transformative things I have experienced with the BrainPort.
Even though the eclipse will only be 83% here in Madison, it will still be another one of those transformative moments for me, as using the BrainPort device helps me more understand visual concepts.