So­lar eclipse of­fers mil­lions a chance at ci­ti­zen sci­ence

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

MI­AMI: Mil­lions of peo­ple, from stu­dents to rocket sci­en­tists, are poised to con­trib­ute to a mas­sive sci­en­tific ef­fort to study the to­tal so­lar eclipse that will sweep across the United States Au­gust 21. The en­tire coun­try will fall into shadow as the eclipse passes, though the dark­est path, or “to­tal­ity,” will be con­tained in a 70-mile rib­bon that moves from Ore­gon to South Carolina. And with tech­nol­ogy ev­ery­where, from smart­phones to satel­lites, the eclipse will be cap­tured as never be­fore, and will of­fer sci­en­tists a wealth of new in­sights on how the 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.”

One of the most pop­u­lar pro­jects is called Eclipse Me­gaMovie, a part­ner­ship be­tween Google and Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley. Its goal is to as­sem­ble im­ages snapped by stu­dents and other am­a­teur ob­servers along the eclipse path, in or­der to cre­ate ed­u­ca­tional ma­te­ri­als de­pict­ing the 93minute eclipse across the coun­try. An­other pro­ject, called the Ci­ti­zen Con­ti­nen­tal-Amer­ica Tele­scopic Eclipse (CATE) Ex­per­i­ment by the Na­tional So­lar Ob­ser­va­tory and the Uni­ver­sity of Ari­zona, 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. Of course, am­a­teurs are not the only ones in­volved. Ex­perts from a host of US agen­cies and uni­ver­si­ties are lead­ing the re­search. Gov­ern­ment aircraft will be dis­patched to follow the eclipse and take in­frared mea­sure­ments to de­ter­mine the so­lar corona’s mag­netism and ther­mal struc­ture.

Mean­while, NASA plans to use a cam­era aboard its Deep Space Cli­mate Ob­ser­va­tory (DSCOVR), a satel­lite that sits in a dis­tant or­bit about 900,000 miles (1.4 mil­lion kilo­me­ters away), to cap­ture the view of light leav­ing the Earth. Two other satel­lite tools aboard the Terra and Aqua satel­lites, launched in 1999 and 2002, re­spec­tively, “will pro­vide ob­ser­va­tions of at­mo­spheric and sur­face con­di­tions at times be­fore and af­ter the eclipse,” said NASA. This data should help sci­en­tists bet­ter cal­cu­late how much so­lar en­ergy hits the top of our at­mos­phere, how much is re­flected back to space and how much ther­mal en­ergy Earth sends off into space. — AP

This NASA file hand­out photo illustration from June 21, 2017 shows a visualization an­i­ma­tion still im­age of the Earth, moon, and sun at 17:05:40 UTC dur­ing the eclipse. — AFP

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