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What do scientists hope to learn from the total solar eclipse?


Scientists are preparing for next week’s total solar eclipse – but what do they hope to learn as parts of Earth temporarily fall into darkness?

NASAThe Institute’s deputy head, Pam Melroy, says it will provide a “completely different” opportunity to study the interaction between the Earth, Moon and Sun.

United States space The agency and others will focus much of their work on observing the corona, the sun’s outer atmosphere.

Total eclipse promo

Normally you can’t see it because the sun is too bright, but during a eclipse the white halo of the crown can be seen bursting from behind the shadow.

The corona is hundreds of times hotter than the surface of the sun and extends far into space.

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It is the source of the solar wind, a stream of charged particles that can sometimes destroy power grids on Earth and affect communications networks.

“In terms of the value of total eclipses, science still can’t explain how the corona is heated to such extreme temperatures,” says Fred Espenak, a retired NASA astrophysicist and eclipse expert.

Scientists hope to gain more data on this puzzle, as well as answers to other questions, such as how fast particles move when thrown through space.

NASA’s WB-57 high-altitude research planes will climb up to 50,000 feet (9.5 miles) to conduct a series of experiments.

A total solar eclipse seen in Illinois in 2017. Photo: AP
The halo of the solar corona will be the focal point. Photo: AP

Learn more:
Total solar eclipse: can I see it in the UK and why is this one unique?

A plane will use a camera capable of photographing in both infrared and visible light to try to identify new details in the middle and lower corona.

The space agency hopes the images will also help study a ring of dust around the sun and search for asteroids orbiting nearby.

The WB-57 special aircraft will conduct a series of high-altitude experiments.  Photo: NASA
The WB-57 aircraft will conduct high-altitude experiments. Photo: NASA

“Dust seems boring,” said Kelly Korreck, NASA’s eclipse program manager.

“But at the same time, the dust is really very interesting. It’s the remains of the formation of the solar system.”

Another plane will use a spectrometer to study light from the corona, hoping to learn more about the temperature and chemical composition of the corona and the particles it emits.

Hundreds of citizen scientists are also expected to participate in Monday’s eclipse.

They are willing to observe things like how quiet birds and other wildlife are, how much temperature drops when the sun is blocked, and what effect that has on communications.

Hundreds of weather balloons will also be released by American university students to monitor atmospheric changes.

The eclipse will last about four and a half minutes, and more than 30 million people in the United States, Mexico and Canada will experience darkness in the path of totality.

A large number of people are expected to attend the show in some areas.

Canada’s Niagara region, near the famous waterfall, has declared a state of emergency amid predictions a million people could attend.


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