Shooting Stars, Eclipses, the Aurora Borialis and Aurora Austrialis, as well as meteor showers, are all very beautiful to a fully sighted person, but what is it like? I will go through some memories, and descriptions people have given.
I remember one particular time, when someone said on the news, that there would be a chance to see shooting stars, IE, small meteorites, in the sky, space debris. “What are they like?” was my question. Their answer: “Just flashes of light in the sky, that flash past really quickly.” Light that flashes really quickly. Yes, but what is light? What is colour, you forget, I do not know this. They had to think of another way to describe what they were seeing through their eyes, in order for me to process, and understand this information. YOu see, when a sighted person sees something, without trying to be too technical, the images get sent from where ever they are, through to the back of the eye, where your retinas are, on which are different coloured cells, rods, and cones, which process that information, which then gets sent to the visual cortex of the brain, to decide what the object, or images are you are seeing, as well as what shape and colour they are. When the images first appear on the retina, they are upside-down, however when they pass through the optic nerve, (a small wire, that connects the back of the eye to the brain) and up to the visual cortex, (The centre where images are processed) the brain has to turn the image the right way up, and decipher what it is. We however, as people without sight, do not have this capability, and our visual cortex, is used for something else, for example, helping to enhance our other senses. This is known as neuro-plasticity, as our brain has adapted, for the loss of one thing, to enhance others.
So how do they describe this? Through tactile objects, or auditory melodies, such as music. Imagine music being played very quickly by an orchestra, and then fading away.
One time in secondary school, there was news of a partial solar eclipse. I was naturally excited about this, and wanted to go out with the other students, to listen to their screams of excitement, as they snapped pictures on their phones, and talked about it to each other. “What is the point?” I was asked. “You can’t see it, but I can try to describe what I see” was my support worker’s response. With that, at 11:15 AM, we went outside, onto the ramp, near the canteen, where everyone was congregated. The sky, gradually began to darken. The temperature dropping slightly. The wind, ever so slightly getting stronger. “What’s it like? What’s happening” I asked.
How did she describe this? You’re all asking yourselves.
“it’s like a biscuit with a bite out of it. The bite is getting larger, and then, as they pass, it gets smaller again, and the sky lightens. Back to daylight.” That, is exactly how Nana described it a few years later, when we had another eclipse, but this time, it was luna.
•The Aurora Borialis, (The northern Lights) and Aurora Austrialis, (The southern Lights)
These are to some, the most spectacular light display the sky has to offer. It’s when solar storms, emitted from the sun, hit the Earth’s magnetic field, (what is our upper atmosphere, the Ozone layer, which without, would expose us to cosmic rays from the sun, which are much stronger than what we’re used too)
delivering a huge display of flashing lights, all different colours. While very beautiful, what is it like for us? well, just darkness, except if someone described it.
You may think, how is that possible? The answer:
Look to auditory use.
Music. The most beautiful music you’ve ever heard. That’s your description of the magical display that you are seeing, to us. The display that makes some cry, and some stand there in awe.
Tomorrow morning, is a super moon, where the moon will turn a (blood red) colour. It will appear larger than normal, and probably look spectacular. My challenge to you, ask yourself, how would you describe this, from the answers and advice I have given here, to a person without sight?
Let me know if you succeed. I’m sure though, this challenge will not present itself without its difficulties.