Friday, March 29, 2024

Get Ready for the Solar Eclipse: Bring Oranges!

One week after Easter, on April 8, 2024, North America will experience a total solar eclipse. This will be the first total eclipse of the sun since 2017. During an eclipse, the path of the sun enables many residents of the United States to witness a celestial phenomenon (using protective glasses) that is truly remarkable.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon orbits between the sun and Earth, thereby fully blocking the face of the sun. When this happens, the sky will darken for a few minutes, as if it were twilight. According to Science News: "Compared with the last total eclipse that crossed the United States, in 2017, this year’s total eclipse will last longer, the sky will fall darker, and the sun itself will put on a much livelier show."

What, you may ask, does all of this have to do with oranges and grapefruits?  Well, as it turns out, the unusual changes in lighting that occur during the mid-day eclipse do strange things to our eyesight, as the rod and cone cells in our eyes have to adapt to the quickly changing conditions.  Not only do vitamin C and bioflavonoids play an important role in how we see things, the color orange becomes key: read on to find out more.

Vitamin C, Bioflavonoids, and Your Eyes

Our eyes are comprised of two major photoreceptor cells in the retina: rods and cones.  True to their names, the rods have an elongated shape, while cones have a conical shape. Rods are receptive to low light and help with our peripheral vision, while cones are adapted to pick up vibrant colors and details in full light. During the eclipse, both rods and cones will engage together in the twilight of partial or full totality; this dual engagement of rods and cones results in an unusual way to see colors, called mesopic vision. While warm colors like orange, red, and yellow--the colors of many citrus fruits--tend to be bright and visible by day, they turn much darker when mesopic vision is engaged. Likewise, cooler colors like green and purple become very vibrant.  

Here's a fun experiment you can try: bring a bowl of citrus fruits, apples. and green grapes and wear a combination of warm and cool colors during the eclipse. When the eclipse is at totality, take a moment to look away from the sky, remove your protective eyewear, and look at your clothes, the bowl of fruit, and surroundings.  You'll see a world that is literally in the "twilight zone," where oranges look purple, apples look black, and green grapes look bright and vivid. This is called the Purkinje effect.

The vitamin C and bioflavonoids found in citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits promote the health of the nerves that enervate the rods and cones so that the color perception can be transmitted to the brain.  These powerful compounds also strengthen the blood vessels and structural integrity of our eyes, enabling us to better experience the dynamic wonder of the eclipse.  As such, it's a great time to uptick your consumption of oranges and grapefruits in these days leading up to the eclipse.

Citrus and Science Models

There is nothing quite as effective as using models to teach astronomy.  Lucky for us, the sun resembles a very large orange or grapefruit, and as such makes a perfect "sun," Grab a ping pong or golf ball for the moon and a blue and green bouncy ball for the planet Earth and voila! You have an instant model to teach kids what the solar eclipse is all about.  After the learning session, you can eat the sun!

In fact, "eating the sun" is what we are doing every time we enjoy a delicious piece of fruit from Florida Fruit Shippers. Thanks to the warmth and light from our closest star and the finest growing conditions and practices, our fruit "eclipses" anything you'll ever find in a grocery store.

Happy Easter, Passover, and Solar Eclipse, from all of us here at Florida Fruit Shippers!


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