Babak Tafreshi/NGC

The Sun’s corona becomes visible during an eclipse.

Fred Isberner is a retired healthcare professor in Carbondale, Illinois. But on 21 August, the 69-year-old will be collecting data about the Sun’s superheated outer atmosphere during a total solar eclipse. Isberner is one of thousands of people across the United States who plan to gather data during the event. Their combined efforts will be one of the largest, one-off citizen-science efforts yet.

“It absolutely has the potential to be the biggest,” says Scott McIntosh, director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s High Altitude Observatory in Boulder, Colorado.  

Total solar eclipses occur about once every 18 months, but they often pass over remote areas such as the ocean. The 21 August eclipse is rare because it will be visible over a heavily populated landmass — the continental United States. About 12 million people live in the path of totality, which stretches from Oregon to South Carolina. Scientists and volunteers plan to take advantage of the situation to gather data and encourage the public to participate in research.

Star gazers

One of the larger efforts is the Eclipse Megamovie Project. The team behind it is inviting anyone with a camera, telescope or smartphone to submit images of the eclipse to an app. Data collected by the project, co-led by McIntosh, will allow researchers to study the ‘diamond ring effect’: a period when sunlight leaks through a valley on the Moon prior to and just after totality, resembling the diamond on a ring. Analysing how this effect changes during the eclipse could help scientists to measure the size of the Sun more precisely.

The project that Isberner is part of — Citizen Continental-America Telescopic Eclipse (Citizen CATE) — involves 68 teams of volunteer stargazers along the path of totality. They will capture images of the eclipse using identical telescopes to get a close, continuous look at the corona, the Sun’s outermost atmosphere. It is a region people normally do not see owing to the Sun's brightness. Researchers hope to spot features including plumes, streamers and loops.

If they are successful, the data could provide insights about this poorly studied region of the Sun, says Matt Penn, a solar astronomer at the National Solar Observatory in Tucson, Arizona, and leader of the Citizen CATE project. Penn’s team will analyse the information and compile the images into a 90-minute timelapse. “No one has taken a 90-minute sequence of this part of the solar atmosphere before”, he says.

Coming home to roost

Not every citizen-science effort will focus on the heavens, however. A project called Life Responds will ask people to record what animals do during the eclipse. Volunteers can submit their observations on the iNaturalist app.

Life Responds is the brainchild of Elise Ricard, a public programmes supervisor at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, who noticed that birds stopped singing during a 2012 eclipse in Australia. “It wasn’t just us on the beach enjoying the eclipse,” Ricard says. “Animal life was responding.”

There is a lot of anecdotal evidence of odd animal behaviour during an eclipse, but research on it is sparse, says Andrew Fraknoi, a Life Responds adviser and retired astronomy professor at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, California.

Stories of unusual behaviour during a solar eclipse include chickens returning to their roosts, llamas surrounding a group of people during the event and whales and dolphins surfacing around a boat minutes before totality.

The data collected by Life Responds is not currently destined for a scientific study. But Ricard hopes that the observations will inspire future research on animal behaviour during eclipses.

The sounds of an eclipse

Other projects will keep an ear out on 21 August. The Eclipse Soundscapes project wants people to collect audio of wildlife in urban and rural settings during the eclipse. The information could have potential applications for anthropological or biological studies, says project leader Henry Winter, an astrophysicist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

His primary goal, however, is to create an app that pairs sound and vibrations to deliver an eclipse experience to blind people. The idea came to Winter when he noticed that some solar eclipse museum displays only included one label written in braille for the visually impaired.

Like Winter, the scientists leading these projects emphasize the importance of including non-researchers in scientific endeavours. “It gives people the sense that they can contribute to science,” says Fraknoi, who is also helping with Citizen CATE.

This is especially true for students. “It will get kids outside of the classroom and give them the hands-on ability to explore science instead of reading about it in a textbook,” says Janet Jorgensen, a former prinicpal at Harlem Junior High School in Harlem, Montana. She will be in Jay Em, Wyoming, along with two teachers and a student from her former school collecting data for Citizen CATE.

The excitement of doing science is a sentiment Isberner, the first Citizen CATE volunteer, can get behind. “Proves that an old guy like me can be trained without any experience in astroimaging and succeed,” he says.

Quelle: nature


Update: 13.08.2017


Space station crew to get three shots at solar eclipse

The International Space Station's crew will enjoy views of the Aug. 21 solar eclipseduring three successive orbits, giving the astronauts a unique opportunity to take in the celestial show from 250 miles up as the moon's shadow races across from the Pacific Ocean and the continental United States before moving out over the Atlantic.

"Because we're going around the Earth every 90 minutes, about the time it takes the sun to cross the U.S., we'll get to see it three times," Randy Bresnik said Friday during a NASA Facebook session. "The first time will be just off the West Coast, we'll actually cross the path of the sun, and we'll have (a partial) eclipse looking up from the space station."

For the station crew, the first partial eclipse opportunity will begin at 12:33 a.m. EDT (GMT-4) and end 13 minutes later.

Floating in the European Columbus laboratory module, Bresnik showed off a solar filter shipped up to the station earlier, saying "we've got specially equipped cameras that'll have these solar filters on them that allow us to take pictures of the sun. That's going to be pretty neat, we'll have a couple of us shooting that."


Space station astronaut Randy Bresnik shows off a solar filter that will be used by the crew during multiple opportunities to photograph the Aug. 21 solar eclipse from their perch 250 miles up.


One orbit later, the station will cross the path of the eclipse in the extreme northwest following a trajectory that will carry the lab over central Canada on the way to the North Atlantic. From the station's perspective, 44 percent of the sun will be blocked in a partial eclipse. But the crew will be able to see the umbra, where the eclipse is total, near the southern horizon.

"We'll be north of Lake Huron in Canada when we'll be able to see the umbra, or the shadow of the eclipse, actually on the Earth, right around the Tennessee-Kentucky (area), the western side of both those states," Bresnik said. "That'll be an opportunity for us to take video, and take still pictures and kind of show you from the human perspective what that's going to look like."


During the second of three successive orbits, the space station crew, passing just south of Hudson Bay, will have a chance to see and photograph the moon's shadow as it moves across western Kentucky and northwestern Tennessee some 1,100 miles away.


The umbra, defining the 70-mile-wide shadow where the sun's disk will be completely blocked out, will be at its closest to the space station at 2:23 p.m. The moon's shadow will be about 1,100 miles away from the lab complex, but from their perch 250 miles up, the astronauts should be able to photograph the dark patch as they race along in their orbit.

"And then the third pass is actually just off the East Coast," Bresnik said. "We'll come around one more time and from the station side we'll see about an 85 percent eclipse of the sun looking up (at 4:17 p.m.). So we should be able to get really neat photos, with our filters, of the sun being occluded by the moon."

NASA plans to provide four hours of eclipse coverage, starting at noon EDT, on the agency's satellite television channel, in web streams and via social media, including Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

"We have a lot of options to share all this," Bresnik told a Facebook questioner. "It's U.S. taxpayer dollars. ... You're paying us to take these pictures, and they go to you. They're free to everybody, and you can access them from the NASA website."

Quelle: CBS News