A look back at the Total Solar Eclipse

What is the Total Solar Eclipse?

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A total solar eclipse is when the dark silhouette of the Moon completely covers the intensely bright light of the Sun. During an eclipse, totality occurs at best only in a narrow track on the surface of Earth.

What happens during a total solar eclipse?

  1. It begins as a partial solar eclipse.

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2. Shadows become sharper than normal.
3. The landscape darkens to a bluish gray.
4. The temperature drops as the sun’s warm rays are partially obstructed by the moon.
5. A last sliver of the sun glistens like a diamond ring until the sun is completely obscured.Screen Shot 2017-08-21 at 10.49.48 PM.png

6. A total solar eclipse takes place. The moon is surrounded by a beautiful halo, which is the corona. This is the only time when you can see the sun’s outer atmosphere. This is totality:

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Why is it so special?

The last time a total solar eclipse swept the whole width of the US was in 1918. So, it is very special to the US. Totality lasts just a few minutes, so it is rarer and more precious. Apart from that, at this point, while the sun is 400 times bigger than the moon, it is also 400 times farther away from Earth. This alignment isn’t constant, so when the moon and the sun do align, it is a big deal!

In a few centuries, Earth will only get partial eclipses as the moon is moving further away. As a result, the alignment will be affected, and the moon will be too far away to completely block the sun, like in totality.

Cool experiments:

1. Volunteers from national labs and education groups will track the total solar eclipse it moves along its path. Each of the groups in this project — called the Citizen CATE (Continental-America Telescopic Eclipse) Experiment — will create not only a full dataset of when and where it passed but a 90-minute movie of the whole thing.

2. College students at Tennessee’s Austin Peay State University will be measuring the total solar eclipse’s sound. In partnership with NASA,  the college students will set up low-frequency radio experiments in bean fields near the site of the eclipse. They’ll capture and observe the radio noise that the eclipse creates, and figure out how it’s different from normal conditions.

The reason we chose that spot is not because I love bringing a camp toilet and tent with me. It’s because it is more than a mile away from electrical power, and that’s where we need to be to do this type of observation.

– Dennis Gallagher, a NASA physicist who is supervising the experiment, told Decatur Daily.

3. At APSU, two scientists will also be watching how crickets and cows act when the sky goes dark as the Moon covers the Sun.

This isn’t the first study done on animal behavior during the eclipse: during one 1991 solar eclipse, spiders were seen taking down their webs. Then again, during a 1999 eclipse, scientists watched 12 cows and they didn’t do much of anything.

4. One important thing we can learn from the eclipse is how to protect our technology from solar flares. Solar flares happen when the Sun’s magnetic field causes a brief burst of intense radiation. Flares are natural, but they can cause disturbances on Earth, especially with power transmission or radio frequencies. One such flare in 1989 even caused a blackout in Québec. The problem is that the magnetic field is hard to measure because the Sun is so bright. During the eclipse, the Moon will cover the Sun completely, giving us a good view of the Sun’s outer atmosphere. So one group is going to use this opportunity to take some measurements from Casper Mountain in Wyoming. This new information should help us predict when it comes to predicting the next solar flare and taking the necessary precautions with our tech.

5. The upper part of the Earth’s stratosphere — just above the ozone layer — is very much like the surface of Mars: it’s about minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit, with very rarified air, and it’s hammered by the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation. During the eclipse, conditions will get even more Mars-like: the temperatures will go down even further, and the Moon will buffer some of those ultraviolet rays to better resemble the radiation on the Red Planet.

Students and researchers will take advantage of this condition and send balloons up into the atmosphere with a particular strain of bacteria called Paenibacillus xerothermodurans to see how they life on Mars.

When will the total solar eclipse happen next?

The very next total solar eclipse will be in 2019 in the South Pacific, Chile, and Argentina. For the US, the next total solar eclipse will occur on April 8, 2024.

When will it take place in India?

India won’t witness a total solar eclipse till 2034, another 17 years from now. Yet, there are annular solar eclipses coming up in 2019 and the year after.

How does a total solar eclipse from space?

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Astronauts abroad the International Space Station had the opportunity to see the total solar eclipse from space. They took a million of photos.

Bibliography:

 

Websites:
https://www.theverge.com/2017/8/16/16155830/total-solar-eclipse-2017-science-experiments
https://www.theverge.com/2017/8/15/16145668/eclipse-nasa-balloons-stratosphere-bacteria-life-mars

Images:
https://www.nasa.gov/content/solar-eclipse-from-the-international-space-station

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