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  • Dan Powers

Research at 500 MPH: For the April 8 Solar Eclipse NSF NCAR Scientists Will Host Experiments and Outreach Projects

As the April 8, 2024 total eclipse approaches, scientists and staff with the U.S. National Science Foundation National Center for Atmospheric Research (NSF NCAR) are preparing a variety of experiments and outreach projects to further our knowledge of the Sun and engage various communities in observing and understanding this extraordinary and rare event. The Sun’s atmosphere is almost impossible to observe on a regular day because the surface is a million times brighter and overpowers the dimmer light of the atmosphere. During a total solar eclipse, however, Earth’s moon blocks out all the brightness and makes it possible to observe the Sun’s upper atmosphere, or corona. This produces not only a breathtaking natural phenomenon, but also ideal conditions for learning about our nearest star. Read more>>>

Research at 500 Miles Per Hour?

Traveling at more than 500 miles per hour, NSF NCAR’s Gulfstream V (GV) jet will take to the skies to chase the eclipse and collect data that will shed light on some of the scientific mysteries of the Sun’s corona. Onboard the GV, the Airborne Coronal Emission Surveyor (ACES) instrument will look at the infrared light emitted by the corona. ACES is not just taking pictures of the eclipse, but looking for light emitted at specific wavelengths using a spectrometer. By measuring the intensity at a particular wavelength, scientists can decode properties like the temperature of the Sun’s plasma or the density of the corona. Read more>>>

There are projects for students, community scientists and various ground-based experiments.

For example, spanning the path of totality in the U.S. from Texas to Maine, 35 non-professional scientist teams will participate in the Citizen Continental-America Telescope Eclipse (CATE) project. Each CATE site will use identical equipment to collect the same type of data. Teams will view the eclipse in totality for about four minutes, but when the images are stitched together, they will provide a total of 60 continuous minutes of totality observations. The resulting footage will allow scientists to see how the Sun’s corona dynamically changes during the eclipse.

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