But photos of Trump taking in the rare phenomenon showed him looking directly at the sun, in what some are calling his latest act of defiance against scientific credence.
First Lady Melania Trump and son Barron resisted the temptation to stare directly at the sun, which can cause retinal damage and even blindness, but Trump couldn’t resist squinting uncomfortably at the centre of the solar system for a second, before giving in and donning protective glasses.
WATCH: Americans reacted with wonder and surprise at solar eclipse
At one point, an aide is heard yelling, “Don’t look!”
In the lead-up to the eclipse, NASA set up a website and public education campaign to teach Americans how to enjoy the solar eclipse safely.
Experts warned that even a cursory look at the sun can damage the retina and cause blurry vision or temporary blindness.
“The light from the sun is very intense and concentrated into a very small area, and then that light is converted into heat and that heat cooks the retina,” Juel Schuman, chair of ophthalmology at NYU Langone Health, told Vox.
Trouble is, the eye feels no pain so it’s often too late to look away from potential retina-burning solar rays before they’ve caused permanent damage, said Ralph Chou, a University of Waterloo optometry professor and president of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.
All of this made Trump’s indiscretion even more difficult to fathom for many people on social media: