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Donald Trump looks directly at solar eclipse without protective glasses

Click to play video: 'Trump and first lady watch eclipse from White House' Trump and first lady watch eclipse from White House
WATCH: Trump and first lady watch eclipse from White House – Aug 21, 2017

Like many other people across North America, U.S. President Donald Trump took a break from his daily duties Monday to witness the total solar eclipse.

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

Click to play video: 'Americans reacted with wonder and surprise at solar eclipse' Americans reacted with wonder and surprise at solar eclipse
Americans reacted with wonder and surprise at solar eclipse – Aug 21, 2017

At one point, an aide is heard yelling, “Don’t look!”

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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.

READ MORE: Solar eclipse 2017: Can you really go blind if you stare at the event?

“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.

READ MORE: Need more total solar eclipse in your life? The next one’s in 7 years

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:

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