Solar eclipse to help boost citizen science initiatives

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Solar Eclipse

The Great American Solar Eclipse on August 21 will prove to be instrumental in providing a boost to citizen science initiatives across the US as well as around the globe.

Millions of people, from students to rocket scientists, in the US and across the globe are going to observe as well as contribute to a massive scientific effort to study the total solar eclipse that will sweep across the United States on August 21. The entire country will fall into shadow as the “Great American Eclipse” passes, though the darkest path, or “totality,” will be contained in a 70-mile (113-kilometer) ribbon that moves from Oregon to South Carolina.

Thanks to the millions of gadgets and instruments that will be observing the Sun on that day, scientists will have a trove of information to sift through to garner a better understanding of how our Sun works.

“There has never been an event like this in human history where so many people could participate with such unique technology,” Carrie Black, an associate program director at the National Science Foundation, told reporters Friday. “We are expecting millions of people to participate in this event, and images and data from this will be collected and analyzed by scientists for years to come.”

Citizen scientists and amateur projects

Eclipse MegaMovie, a partnership between Google and University of California, Berkeley is one of the most popular projects with the goal to assemble images snapped by students and other amateur observers along the eclipse path, in order to create educational materials depicting the 93-minute eclipse across the country.

Then there is the Citizen Continental-America Telescopic Eclipse (CATE) Experiment by the National Solar Observatory and the University of Arizona that will engage in a kind of relay race.Volunteers from universities, high schools and national labs will be spaced out along the path of the eclipse, using identical telescopes and digital camera systems to capture high-quality images for a comprehensive dataset of the event.

“This event will rival the moon landing of 1969 as a landmark event for a new generation,” said Madhulika Guhathakurta, NASA lead scientist for the 2017 eclipse.

The eclipse happens when the Moon passes between the Earth and Sun, blocking the light.

This perfect-circle blackout of the bright center of the Sun allows scientists to capture in great detail the elusive outer atmosphere of the Sun, or solar corona.

NASA is reminding people to take eye safety precautions because it is never safe to look at the Sun during an eclipse.

“Only with special-purpose solar filters, such as eclipse glasses or a handheld solar viewer, you can safely look directly at the Sun,” the agency said. Wearing ordinary sunglasses, even dark ones, will not do, NASA said.

 

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