Solar eclipse: NASA supports studies on the Sun and radiation – 04/04/2024 – Science

Solar eclipse: NASA supports studies on the Sun and radiation – 04/04/2024 – Science


Next Monday (8), a total solar eclipse will occur, the likes of which have not been seen in a long time. The phenomenon can be seen from points in Mexico, the United States and Canada and will make stars, planets and even a comet visible. NASA intends to take advantage of the opportunity to carry out scientific studies that would not be possible if it weren’t for the Moon completely blocking sunlight.

The space agency will fund five scientific projects, led by researchers from different academic institutions, that will study the Sun and its influence on Earth with a variety of instruments, including cameras on board high-altitude research planes and amateur radios. Two of the projects also encourage the participation of citizen scientists.

“Scientists have long used solar eclipses to make scientific discoveries,” said Kelly Korreck, program scientist at NASA Headquarters. “They helped us make the first detection of helium, gave us evidence for the theory of general relativity, and allowed us to better understand the Sun’s influence on Earth’s upper atmosphere.”

On August 21, 2017, more than 20 million people were able to observe the total solar eclipse that crossed the US from west to east. This year’s — which will appear in Mexico, cross 15 American states and disappear in Canada — will cover much more populous regions, which should increase the audience to more than 30 million, making it the most watched eclipse in history.

The phenomenon will occur in the early afternoon and observers in the center of the route will have 4min20s to 4min27s to enjoy it. The event should attract many national and international tourists.

These lucky people will also have the opportunity to observe another phenomenon, comet 12P/Pons-Brooks, which approaches the Sun every 71.3 years. It is being called the Devil’s Comet due to its tail split in two. According to scientists, this would be caused by an uneven release of gas and dust. Anyone using a telescope or binoculars will have a better view of the comet.

In addition to the spectacle in the sky, in the eclipse region you can also observe the decrease in temperature and the reaction of the animals, which generally remain quiet, confused by the darkness of the night.

See the scientific experiments that must be carried out on the day.

Eclipse chase with high-altitude planes

Using a NASA WB-57 high-altitude research plane, one project will capture images of the eclipse from an altitude of 50,000 feet (15,240 m) above the Earth’s surface.

The expectation is to see new details of the structures in the Sun’s middle and lower corona.

The observations, made with a camera that captures images in infrared and visible light at high resolution and high speed, can also help study a ring of dust around the Sun and search for asteroids that may orbit close to the sun.

Aerial images and spectroscopic observations of the corona

The WB-57s will also fly with cameras and spectrometers (which study the composition of light) to learn more about the temperature and chemical composition of the corona and coronal mass ejections, or large explosions of solar material.

The team hopes these observations will provide new insights into the structures in the corona and the sources of the constant stream of particles emitted by the Sun, the solar wind.

Tests with amateur radio operators

Nathaniel Frissell of the University of Scranton invited amateur radio operators to participate in what he called Solar Eclipse QSO Parties, where they will try to make as many radio contacts (QSOs in the language used by operators) as possible with other operators in different locations . Participants will record how strong their signals are and how far they go to observe how the ionosphere changes during eclipses.

According to NASA, in an upper region of our atmosphere, the Sun’s energy removes electrons from atoms, making the region electrically charged, or ionized. This region, the ionosphere, can help radio communications travel long distances, such as those between amateur radio operators around the world. However, when the Moon blocks the Sun during a solar eclipse, the ionosphere can change drastically, affecting these communications. And it is this change that will be analyzed.

Effects of solar radiation on the upper layers of the atmosphere

Other research will be carried out by Bharat Kunduri of Virginia Polytechnic and State University, who will use three SuperDarn radars to study the impact of solar radiation on the upper layers of the Earth’s atmosphere during the eclipse.

The Dual Auroral Radar Network, or SuperDarn, monitors space weather conditions in the upper layers of Earth’s atmosphere. So Kunduri’s team will compare the measurements with predictions from computer models to answer questions about how the ionosphere reacts to a solar eclipse.

Studying the Sun’s magnetic hot spots

A team made up of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, educators at the Lewis Center for Educational Research in Southern California and participants in the center’s Solar Patrol citizen science program will use the 34-meter Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope to measure subtle changes in radio emissions from active regions of the Sun during the eclipse.

The technique, first used during the May 2012 annular eclipses, revealed details that the telescope could not detect otherwise.

The focus is on the study of solar active regions — the magnetically complex regions that form over sunspots — as the Moon passes over them. The Moon’s gradual passage over the Sun blocks different parts of the active region at different times, allowing scientists to distinguish light signals coming from one part versus another.


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