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Chasing the Total Solar Eclipse from NASAs WB-57F Jets

nasa.gov /feature/goddard/2017/chasing-the-total-solar-eclipse-from-nasa-s-wb-57f-jets

Eclipses and Transits

July 25, 2017

For most viewers, the Aug. 21, 2017, total solar eclipse will last less than two and half minutes. But for one team
of NASA-funded scientists, the eclipse will last over seven minutes. Their secret? Following the shadow of the
Moon in two retrofitted WB-57F jet planes.

Amir Caspi of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and his team will use two of NASAs WB-57F
research jets to chase the darkness across America on Aug. 21. Taking observations from twin telescopes mounted
on the noses of the planes, Caspi will capture the clearest images of the Suns outer atmosphere the corona to
date and the first-ever thermal images of Mercury, revealing how temperature varies across the planets surface.

These could well turn out to be the best ever observations of high frequency phenomena in the corona, says Dan
Seaton, co-investigator of the project and researcher at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado. Extending
the observing time and going to very high altitude might allow us to see a few events or track waves that would be
essentially invisible in just two minutes of observations from the ground.

For most viewers, the Aug. 21, 2017, total solar eclipse will last less than two and half minutes. But for one team of
NASA-funded scientists, the eclipse will last over seven minutes. Their secret? Following the shadow of the Moon in
two retrofitted WB-57F jet planes. Amir Caspi of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and his
team will use two of NASA's WB-57F research jets to chase the darkness across America on Aug. 21. Taking
observations from twin telescopes mounted on the noses of the planes, Caspi will capture the clearest images of the
Sun's outer atmosphere -- the corona -- to date and the first-ever thermal images of Mercury, revealing how
temperature varies across the planet's surface.

Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Download this video in HD formats from NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio

The total solar eclipse provides a rare opportunity for scientists to study the Sun, particularly its atmosphere. As the
Moon completely covers the Sun and perfectly blocks its light during an eclipse, the typically faint corona is easily
seen against the dark sky. NASA is funding 11 science projects across America for scientists to take advantage of
the unique astronomical event to learn more about the Sun and its effects on Earths upper atmosphere.

(Photo illustration) During the upcoming total solar eclipse, a team of NASA-funded scientists will observe the solar
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corona using stabilized telescopes aboard two of NASAs WB-57F research aircraft. This vantage point provides
distinct advantages over ground-based observations, as illustrated by this composite photo of the aircraft and the
2015 total solar eclipse at the Faroe Islands.

Credits: NASA/Faroe Islands/SwRI

The corona is heated to millions of degrees, yet the lower atmospheric layers like the photosphere the visible
surface of the Sun are only heated to a few thousand degrees. Scientists arent sure how this inversion happens.
One theory proposes that magnetic waves called Alfvn waves steadily convey energy into the Suns outer
atmosphere, where it is then dissipated as heat. Alternatively, micro explosions, termed nanoflares too small and
frequent to detect individually, but with a large collective effect might release heat into the corona.

One of the WB-57F jets is readied for a test run at NASAs Johnson Space Center in Houston. The instruments are
mounted under the silver casing on the nose of the plane.

Credits: NASAs Johnson Space Center/Norah Moran

Due to technological limitations, no one has yet directly seen nanoflares, but the high-resolution and high-speed
images to be taken from the WB-57F jets might reveal their effects on the corona. The high-definition pictures,
captured 30 times per second, will be analyzed for wave motion in the corona to see if waves move towards or away
from the surface of the Sun, and with what strengths and sizes.

We see the evidence of nanoflare heating, but we dont know where they occur, Caspi said. If they occur higher
up in the corona, we might expect to see waves moving downwards, as the little explosions occur and collectively
reconfigure the magnetic fields.

In this way, nanoflares may also be the missing link responsible for untangling the chaotic mess of magnetic field
lines on the surface of the Sun, explaining why the corona has neat loops and smooth fans of magnetic fields. The
direction and nature of the waves observed will also help distinguish between competing models of coronal heating.

The two planes, launching from Ellington Field near NASAs Johnson Space Center in Houston will observe the total
eclipse for about three and a half minutes each as they fly over Missouri, Illinois and Tennessee. By flying high in the
stratosphere, observations taken with onboard telescopes will avoid looking through the majority of Earths
atmosphere, greatly improving image quality. At the planes cruising altitude of 50,000 feet, the sky is 20-30 times
darker than as seen from the ground, and there is much less atmospheric turbulence, allowing fine structures and
motions in the Suns corona to be visible.

Images of the Sun will primarily be captured at visible light wavelengths, specifically the green light given off by
highly ionized iron, superheated by the corona. This light is best for showing the fine structures in the Suns outer
atmosphere. These images are complementary to space-based telescopes, like NASAs Solar Dynamics

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Observatory, which takes images primarily in ultraviolet light and does not have the capacity for the high-speed
imagery that can be captured aboard the WB-57F.

Observations of Mercury will also be taken a half-hour before and after totality, when the sky is still relatively dark.
These images, taken in the infrared, will be the first attempt to map the variation of temperature across the surface of
the planet.

Mercury rotates much slower than Earth one Mercurial day is approximately 59 Earth days so the night side
cools to a few hundred degrees below zero while the dayside bakes at a toasty 800 F. The images will show how
quickly the surface cools, allowing scientists to know what the soil is made of and how dense it is. These results will
give scientists insight into how Mercury and other rocky planets may have formed.

The images of the corona will also allow the team to search for a hypothesized family of asteroids called vulcanoids.
Its thought these objects orbit between the Sun and Mercury, and are leftover from the formation of the solar system.
If discovered, vulcanoids could change what scientists understand about planet formation.

Related Links

By Mara Johnson-Groh
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Last Updated: Aug. 3, 2017

Editor: Rob Garner

Aug. 22, 2017

NASA's EPIC View of 2017 Eclipse Across America


animation of DSCOVR satellite's observations of moon's shadow on Earth's surface

From a million miles out in space, NASAs Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) captured 12 natural color
images of the moons shadow crossing over North America on Aug. 21, 2017. EPIC is aboard NOAAs Deep Space
Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), where it photographs the full sunlit side of Earth every day, giving it a unique view
of total solar eclipses. EPIC normally takes about 20 to 22 images of Earth per day, so this animation appears to
speed up the progression of the eclipse.

To see the images of Earth every day, go to: https://epic.gsfc.nasa.gov

Credit: NASA EPIC Team

Watch video version on YouTube

Last Updated: Aug. 22, 2017

Editor: Rob Garner

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Eclipses and Transits

Aug. 22, 2017


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NASA Earth Observatory: Eclipse Shadow Darkens the United States

On Aug. 21, 2017, many Americans saw day turn temporarily to night as the Moon passed between the Sun and the
Earth to create a total solar eclipse. As people in the 70-mile-wide (110-kilometer-wide) path of totality looked up and
saw blinding light replaced by a dark circle and the Suns wispy corona, NASA Earth-observing satellites captured
imagery of the Moons shadow as it raced eastward over the continental United States.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor on the Terra satellite captured this mosaic
comprised of data collected at three different times. The right third of the image shows the eastern United States at
about 12:10 p.m. Eastern Time (16:10 Universal Time), before the eclipse had begun. The middle part was captured
at about 12:50 p.m. Central Time (17:50 Universal Time), when the eclipse was in progress in the center of the
country. The left third of the image was collected at about 12:30 p.m. Pacific Time (19:30 Universal Time), after the
eclipse had ended. Terra has a polar orbit and the MODIS sensor collects imagery in swaths that are roughly 1,450
miles (2,330 kilometers) wide.

Credit: NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens and Jesse Allen, using MODIS data from the Land
Atmosphere Near real-time Capability for EOS (LANCE) and EOSDIS/Rapid Response

Download full-res image from NASA Earth Observatory

Last Updated: Aug. 22, 2017

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Editor: Rob Garner

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Eclipses and Transits

Aug. 21, 2017

SDO Views 2017 Solar Eclipse

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Image of the Moon transiting across the Sun, taken by SDO in 304 angstrom extreme ultraviolet light on Aug. 21,
2017.

Credit: NASA/SDO

Last Updated: Aug. 21, 2017

Editor: Rob Garner

Eclipses and Transits

Aug. 21, 2017

SDO Views 2017 Solar Eclipse

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Image of the Moon transiting across the Sun, taken by SDO in 171 angstrom extreme ultraviolet light on Aug. 21,
2017.

Credit: NASA/SDO

Last Updated: Aug. 21, 2017

Editor: Rob Garner

Eclipses and Transits

Aug. 17, 2017

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Greatest Eclipse and Greatest Duration: Whats the Difference?
During the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017, the Moons shadow will cross the United States from Oregon to
South Carolina in just an hour and a half. But the shadow wont travel across the country at the same speed.
Instead, its speed will vary and depending on location, so too will the duration of totality, the fleeting minutes
when the Moon completely covers the Sun.

Two points along the shadows path are of particular interest to eclipse viewers seeking the longest-lasting totality:
the point of greatest eclipse and the point of greatest duration. But neither is necessarily greater than the other; with
clear skies, any view of the corona the suns pearly-white, ethereal atmosphere should be spectacular. So,
what is the difference between the two?

The point of greatest eclipse is where the axis of the Moons shadow passes closest to the center of the Earth. Since
this is a strictly geometric concept, scientists use this point to compare different eclipses with each other. For
example, each eclipse on NASAs list of past and future eclipses is described by the date and time at its point of
greatest eclipse. The point of greatest eclipse for the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse will see 2 minutes, 40.1 seconds of
totality. The closest towns to this location are Cerulean and Hopkinsville, Kentucky, which each will experience 2
minutes, 40 seconds of totality.

The point of greatest eclipse for the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse will see 2 minutes, 40.1 seconds of totality.

Credits: Map data by Google; eclipse calculations by NASA

On the other hand, the point of greatest duration is where totality lasts the longest along the very center of the path
of totality. The greatest duration during the Aug. 21 eclipse is 2 minutes, 40.2 seconds near Makanda, Illinois.
Carbondale, Illinois, is the closest large town and will experience 2 minutes, 37 seconds of totality.

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The greatest duration during the Aug. 21 eclipse is 2 minutes, 40.2 seconds.

Credits: Map data by Google; eclipse calculations by NASA

Even though the Moons shadow travels at the same speed in space, the shadows speed and totality varies in
different places based on geometry between Earth and the Moon.

Credits: NASA Goddards Scientific Visualization Studio

Typically, the duration of totality at greatest duration and greatest eclipse differs by just a few tenths of a second.
The geographic location may differ by 6 to 60 miles.

Even though the Moons shadow travels at the same speed in space, the shadows speed and totality varies in
different places based on geometry between Earth and the Moon. The Moon casts its shadow not on a flat surface,
but a sphere Earth. Toward either end of the path of totality, Earth curves away from the Moon, so the shadow
hits the surface at an angle and elongates, covering a longer distance over a given time period. Near the middle of
the path of totality, when the shadow hits Earth head-on, the shadow covers less ground in the same amount of time,
so totality lasts the longest.

For more information on the upcoming total solar eclipse, visit: https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov

By Lina Tran
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NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Last Updated: Aug. 22, 2017

Editor: Rob Garner

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Eclipses and Transits

Aug. 14, 2017

Studying the Suns Atmosphere with the Total Solar Eclipse of 2017
A total solar eclipse happens somewhere on Earth about once every 18 months. But because Earths surface is
mostly ocean, most eclipses are visible over land for only a short time, if at all. The total solar eclipse of Aug. 21,
2017, is different its path stretches over land for nearly 90 minutes, giving scientists an unprecedented opportunity
to make scientific measurements from the ground.

When the Moon moves in front of the Sun on Aug. 21, it will completely obscure the Suns bright face. This happens
because of a celestial coincidence though the Sun is about 400 times wider than the Moon, the Moon on Aug. 21
will be about 400 times closer to us, making their apparent size in the sky almost equal. In fact, the Moon will appear
slightly larger than the Sun to us, allowing it to totally obscure the Sun for more than two and a half minutes in some
locations. If they had the exact same apparent size, the total eclipse would only last for an instant.

A total solar eclipse lets NASA researchers try out technology that could one day aid in the development of future
missions, however, they must flawlessly complete the experiment in a few short minutes, two to be exact.

Credits: NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center/Genna Duberstein

To download the video

The eclipse will reveal the Suns outer atmosphere, called the corona, which is otherwise too dim to see next to the
bright Sun. Though we study the corona from space with instruments called coronagraphs which create artificial
eclipses by using a metal disk to block out the Suns face there are still some lower regions of the Suns
atmosphere that are only visible during total solar eclipses. Because of a property of light called diffraction, the disk
of a coronagraph must block out both the Suns surface and a large part of the corona in order to get crisp pictures.
But because the Moon is so far away from Earth about 230,000 miles away during the eclipse diffraction isnt an
issue, and scientists are able to measure the lower corona in fine detail.
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NASA is taking advantage of the Aug. 21, 2017, eclipse by funding 11 ground-based science investigations across
the United States. Six of these focus on the Suns corona.

The source of space weather

Our Sun is an active star that constantly releases a flow of charged particles and magnetic fields known as the solar
wind. This solar wind, along with discrete burps of solar material known as coronal mass ejections, can influence
Earths magnetic field, send particles raining down into our atmosphere, and when intense impact satellites.
Though were able to track these solar eruptions when they leave the Sun, the key to predicting when theyll happen
could lie in studying their origins in the magnetic energy stored in the lower corona.

A team led by Philip Judge of the High Altitude Observatory in Boulder, Colorado, will use new instruments to study
the magnetic field structure of the corona by imaging this atmospheric layer during the eclipse. The instruments will
image the corona to see fingerprints left by the magnetic field in visible and near-infrared wavelengths from a
mountaintop near Casper, Wyoming. One instrument, POLARCAM, uses new technology based on the eyes of the
mantis shrimp to obtain novel polarization measurements, and will serve as a proof-of-concept for use in future
space missions. The research will enhance our understanding of how the Sun generates space weather.

We want to compare between the infrared data were capturing and the ultraviolet data recorded by NASAs Solar
Dynamics Observatory and JAXA/NASAs Hinode satellite, said Judge. This work will confirm or refute our
understanding of how light across the entire spectrum forms in the corona, perhaps helping to resolve some nagging
disagreements.

The results from the camera will complement data from an airborne study imaging the corona in the infrared, as well
as another ground-based infrared study led by Paul Bryans at the High Altitude Observatory. Bryans and his team
will sit inside a trailer atop Casper Mountain in Wyoming, and point a specialized instrument at the eclipse. The
instrument is a spectrometer, which collects light from the Sun and separates each wavelength of light, measuring
their intensity. This particular spectrometer, called the NCAR Airborne Interferometer, will, for the first time, survey
infrared light emitted by the solar corona.

These studies are complementary. We will have the spectral information, which reveals the component
wavelengths of light, said Bryans. And Philip Judges team will have the spatial resolution to tell where certain
features are coming from.

This novel data will help scientists characterize the coronas complex magnetic field crucial information for
understanding and eventually helping to forecast space weather events. The scientists will augment their study by
analyzing their results alongside corresponding space-based observations from other instruments aboard NASAs
Solar Dynamics Observatory and the joint NASA/JAXA Hinode.

In Madras, Oregon, a team of NASA scientists led by Nat Gopalswamy at NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center in
Greenbelt, Maryland, will point a new, specialized polarization camera at the Suns faint outer atmosphere, the
corona, taking several-second exposures at four selected wavelengths in just over two minutes. Their images will
capture data on the temperature and speed of solar material in the corona. Currently these measurements can only
be obtained from Earth-based observations during a total solar eclipse.

To study the corona at times and locations outside a total eclipse, scientists use coronagraphs, which mimic eclipses
by using solid disks to block the Suns face much the way the Moons shadow does. Typical coronagraphs use a
polarizer filter in a mechanism that turns through three angles, one after the other, for each wavelength filter. The
new camera is designed to eliminate this clunky, time-consuming process, by incorporating thousands of tiny
polarization filters to read light polarized in different directions simultaneously. Testing this instrument is a crucial
step toward improving coronagraphs and ultimately, our understanding of the corona the very root of the solar
radiation that fills up Earths space environment.

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NASAs Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, constantly observes the outer regions of the Suns corona.
During the Aug. 21, 2017, eclipse, scientists will observe the lower regions of the suns corona to better understand
the source of solar explosions called coronal mass ejections, as well as the unexpectedly high temperatures in the
corona.

Credits: ESA/NASA/SOHO

Unexplained coronal heating

The answer to another mystery also lies in the lower corona: It is thought to hold the secrets to a longstanding
question of how the solar atmosphere reaches such unexpectedly high temperatures. The Suns corona is much
hotter than its surface, which is counterintuitive, as the Suns energy is generated by nuclear fusion at its core.
Usually temperatures go down consistently as you move away from that heat source, the same way that it gets
cooler as you move away from a fire but not so in the case of the Suns atmosphere. Scientists suspect that
detailed measurements of the way particles move in the lower corona could help them uncover the mechanism that
produces this enormous heating.

Padma Yanamandra-Fisher of the Space Science Institute will lead an experiment to take images of the lower
corona in polarized light. Polarized light is when all the light waves are oriented the same way, and it is produced
when ordinary, unpolarized light passes through a medium in this case, the electrons of the inner solar corona.

By measuring the polarized brightness of the inner solar corona and using numerical modeling, we can extract the
number of electrons along the line of sight, said Yanamandra-Fisher. Essentially, were mapping the distribution of
free electrons in the inner solar corona.

Mapping the inner corona in polarized light to reveal the density of elections is a critical factor in modeling coronal
waves, one possible source of coronal heating. Along with unpolarized light images collected by the NASA-funded
citizen science project called Citizen CATE, which will gather eclipse imagery from across the country, these
polarized light measurements could help scientists address the question of the solar coronas unusually high
temperatures.

Shadia Habbal of the University of Hawaiis Institute for Astronomy in Honolulu will lead a team of scientists to image
the Sun during the total solar eclipse. The eclipses long path over land allows the team to image the Sun from five
sites across four different states, about 600 miles apart, allowing them to track short-term changes in the corona

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and increasing the odds of good weather.

They will use spectrometers, which analyze the light emitted from different ionized elements in the corona. The
scientists will also use unique filters to selectively image the corona in certain colors, which allows them to directly
probe into the physics of the Suns outer atmosphere.

With this data, they can explore the composition and temperature of the corona, and measure the speed of particles
flowing out from the Sun. Different colors correspond to different elements nickel, iron and argon that have lost
electrons, or been ionized, in the coronas extreme heat, and each element ionizes at a specific temperature. By
analyzing such information together, the scientists hope to better understand the processes that heat the corona.

Amir Caspi of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and his team will use two of NASAs WB-57F
research jets take observations from twin telescopes mounted on the noses of the planes. They will capture the
clearest images of the Suns outer atmosphere the corona to date and the first-ever thermal images of
Mercury, revealing how temperature varies across the planets surface. Read more about this study here.

Related:

NASAs Eclipse 2017 website


NASAs Eclipse news stories

Caption for banner image: A total solar eclipse gives scientists a rare opportunity to study the lower regions of the
Suns corona. These observations can help us understand solar activity, as well as the unexpectedly high
temperatures in the corona. Credit: S. Habbal, M. Druckmller and P. Aniol

By Sarah Frazier
NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Last Updated: Aug. 16, 2017

Editor: Lynn Jenner

Read Full Article

Eclipses and Transits

Aug. 10, 2017

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Day to Night and Back Again: Earths Ionosphere During the Total Solar
Eclipse
On Aug. 21, 2017, the Moon will slide in front of the Sun and for a brief moment, day will melt into a dusky night.
Moving across the country, the Moons shadow will block the Suns light, and weather permitting, those within the
path of totality will be treated to a view of the Suns outer atmosphere, called the corona.

But the total solar eclipse will also have imperceptible effects, such as the sudden loss of extreme ultraviolet
radiation from the Sun, which generates the ionized layer of Earths atmosphere, called the ionosphere. This ever-
changing region grows and shrinks based on solar conditions, and is the focus of several NASA-funded science
teams that will use the eclipse as a ready-made experiment, courtesy of nature.

NASA is taking advantage of the Aug. 21 eclipse by funding 11 ground-based science investigations across the
United States. Three of these will look to the ionosphere in order to improve our understanding of the Suns
relationship to this region, where satellites orbit and radio signals are reflected back toward the Earth.

The eclipse turns off the ionospheres source of high-energy radiation, said Bob Marshall, a space scientist at
University of Colorado Boulder and principal investigator for one of the studies. Without ionizing radiation, the
ionosphere will relax, going from daytime conditions to nighttime conditions and then back again after the eclipse.

During the total solar eclipse, the Moon will turn off the ionospheres source of extreme ultraviolet radiation: The
ionosphere will go from daytime conditions to nighttime conditions.

Credits: NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center/Katy Mersmann

Stretching from roughly 50 to 400 miles above Earths surface, the tenuous ionosphere is an electrified layer of the
atmosphere that reacts to changes from both Earth below and space above. Such changes in the lower atmosphere
or space weather can manifest as disruptions in the ionosphere that can interfere with communication and
navigation signals.

In our lifetime, this is the best eclipse to see, said Greg Earle, an electrical and computer engineer at Virginia Tech
in Blacksburg, Virginia, who is leading another of the studies. But weve also got a denser network of satellites,
GPS and radio traffic than ever before. Its the first time well have such a wealth of information to study the effects of
this eclipse; well be drowning in data.

Pinning down ionospheric dynamics can be tricky. Compared to visible light, the Suns extreme ultraviolet output is
highly variable, said Phil Erickson, a principal investigator of a third study and space scientist at Massachusetts
Institute of Technologys Haystack Observatory in Westford, Massachusetts. That creates variability in ionospheric
weather. Because our planet has a strong magnetic field, charged particles are also affected along magnetic field
lines all over the planet all of this means the ionosphere is complicated.

But when totality hits on Aug. 21, scientists will know exactly how much solar radiation is blocked, the area of land
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its blocked over and for how long. Combined with measurements of the ionosphere during the eclipse, theyll have
information on both the solar input and corresponding ionosphere response, enabling them to study the mechanisms
underlying ionospheric changes better than ever before.

animation depicting insolation

The Moons shadow will dramatically affect insolation the amount of sunlight reaching the ground during the
total solar eclipse.

Credits: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio

Tying the three studies together is the use of automated communication or navigation signals to probe the
ionospheres behavior during the eclipse. During typical day-night cycles, the concentration of charged atmospheric
particles, or plasma, waxes and wanes with the Sun.

In the daytime, ionospheric plasma is dense, Earle said. When the Sun sets, production goes away, charged
particles recombine gradually through the night and density drops. During the eclipse, were expecting that process
in a much shorter interval.

During typical day-night cycles, the ionosphere shown in purple and not-to-scale in this image waxes and
wanes with the Sun. The total solar eclipse will cut off this regions source of ionizing radiation.

Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Duberstein

The denser the plasma, the more likely these signals are to bump into charged particles along their way from the
signal transmitter to receiver. These interactions refract, or bend, the path taken by the signals. In the eclipse-
induced artificial night the scientists expect stronger signals, since the atmosphere and ionosphere will absorb less
of the transmitted energy.

If we set up a receiver somewhere, measurements at that location provide information on the part of the ionosphere
between the transmitter and receiver, Marshall said. We use the receivers to monitor the phase and amplitude of
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the signal. When the signal wiggles up and down, thats entirely produced by changes in the ionosphere.

Using a range of different electromagnetic signals, each of the teams will send signals back and forth across the
path of totality. By monitoring how their signals propagate from transmitter to receiver, they can map out changes in
ionospheric density. The teams will also use these techniques to collect data before and after the eclipse, so they
can compare the well-defined eclipse response to the regions baseline behavior, allowing them to discern the
eclipse-related effects.

Probing the Ionosphere

A layer of charged particles, called the ionosphere, surrounds Earth, extending from about 50 to 400 miles above the
surface of the planet.

Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Duberstein

The ionosphere is roughly divided into three regions in altitude based on what wavelength of solar radiation is
absorbed: the D, E and F, with D being the lowermost region and F, the uppermost. In combination, the three
experiment teams will study the entirety of the ionosphere.

Marshall and his team, from the University of Colorado Boulder, will probe the D-regions response to the eclipse
with very low frequency, or VLF, radio signals. This is the lowest and least dense part of the ionosphere and
because of that, the least understood.

Just because the density is low, doesnt mean its unimportant, Marshall said. The D-region has implications for
communications systems actively used by many military, naval and engineering operations.

Marshalls team will take advantage of the U.S. Navys existing network of powerful VLF transmitters to examine the
D-regions response to changes in solar output. Radio wave transmissions sent from Lamoure, North Dakota, will be
monitored at receiving stations across the eclipse path in Boulder, Colorado, and Bear Lake, Utah. They plan to
combine their data with observations from several space-based missions, including NOAAs Geostationary
Operational Environmental Satellite, NASAs Solar Dynamics Observatory and NASAs Ramaty High Energy Solar

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Spectroscopic Imager, to characterize the effect of the Suns radiation on this particular region of the ionosphere.

Erickson and team will look further up, to the E- and F-regions of the ionosphere. Using over 6,000 ground-based
GPS sensors alongside powerful radar systems at MITs Haystack Observatory and Arecibo Observatory in Puerto
Rico, along with data from several NASA space-based missions, the MIT-based team will also work with citizen
radio scientists who will send radio signals back and forth over long distances across the path.

MITs science team will use their data to track travelling ionospheric disturbances which are sometimes
responsible for space weather patterns in the upper atmosphere and their large-scale effects. These
disturbances in the ionosphere are often linked to a phenomenon known as atmospheric gravity waves, which can
also be triggered by eclipses.

We may even see global-scale effects, Erickson said. Earths magnetic field is like a wire that connects two
different hemispheres together. Whenever electrical variations happen in one hemisphere, they show up in the
other.

Earle and his Virginia Tech-based team will station themselves across the country in Bend, Oregon; Holton, Kansas;
and Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, South Carolina. Using state-of-the-art transceiver instruments called
ionosondes, they will measure the ionospheres height and density, and combine their measurements with data from
a nation-wide GPS network and signals from the ham radio Reverse Beacon Network. The team will also utilize data
from SuperDARN high frequency radars, two of which lie along the eclipse path in Christmas Valley, Oregon, and
Hays, Kansas.

Were looking at the bottom side of the F-region, and how it changes during the eclipse, Earle said. This is the part
of the ionosphere where changes in signal propagation are strong. Their work could one day help mitigate
disturbances to radio signal propagation, which can affect AM broadcasts, ham radio and GPS signals.

Ultimately, the scientists plan to use their data to improve models of ionospheric dynamics. With these
unprecedented data sets, they hope to better our understanding of this perplexing region.

Others have studied eclipses throughout the years, but with more instrumentation, we keep getting better at our
ability to measure the ionosphere, Erickson said. It usually uncovers questions we never thought to ask.

For more information on the upcoming total solar eclipse: https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov

Related:

NASA Looks to Solar Eclipse to Help Understand Earths Energy System


Chasing the Total Solar Eclipse from NASAs WB-57F Jets

Banner image: Earth's limb at night, seen from the International Space Station, with air glow visual composited into
the image. Credit: NASA

By Lina Tran
NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Last Updated: Aug. 10, 2017

Editor: Rob Garner

Read Full Article

Eclipses and Transits


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Aug. 10, 2017

Five Tips from NASA for Photographing the Total Solar Eclipse on Aug. 21

People watch a partial eclipse in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on March 20, 2015.

Credits: Robin Cordiner

During the eclipse, youll be able to see and photograph the structures in the Suns corona.

Credits: Miloslav Druckmller, Martin Dietzel, Shadia Habbal, Vojtech Rusin

The total solar eclipse crossing America on Aug. 21 will be the first eclipse to march from sea to shining sea in nearly
100 years. This astronomical event is a unique opportunity for scientists studying in the shadow of the Moon, but its
also a perfect opportunity to capture unforgettable images. Whether youre an amateur photographer or a selfie
master, try out these tips for photographing the eclipse.

#1 Safety First

To take images as the Sun is being eclipsed, youll need to use a special solar filter to protect your camera, just as
youll need a pair of eclipse glasses to protect your own eyes. However, at totality, when the Moon completely blocks
the Sun, make sure to remove the filter so you can see the Suns outer atmosphere the corona.

Having a few other pieces of equipment can also come in handy during the eclipse. Using a tripod can help you
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stabilize the camera and avoid taking blurry images during the low lighting. Additionally, using a delayed shutter
release timer will allow you to snap shots without jiggling the camera.

#2 Any Camera Is a Good Camera

Taking a stunning photo has more to do with the photographer than the camera. Whether you have a high-end
DLSR, or a camera phone, you can take great photos during the eclipse; after all, the best piece of equipment you
can have is a good eye and a vision for the image you want to create. If you dont have a telephoto zoom lens, focus
on taking landscape shots, which capture the changing environment.

#3 Look Up, Down, All Around

While the Sun is the most commanding element of an eclipse, remember to look around you. As the Moon slips in
front of the Sun, the landscape will be bathed in long shadows, creating eerie lighting across the landscape. Light
filtering through the overlapping leaves of trees, creating natural pinholes, which will also create mini eclipse replicas
on the ground. Everywhere you can point your camera can yield exceptional imagery, so be sure to compose some
wide-angle photos that can capture your eclipse experience.

NASA photographer Bill Ingalls recommends focusing on the human experience of watching the eclipse. The real
pictures are going to be of the people around you pointing, gawking and watching it, Ingalls noted. Those are going
to be some great moments to capture to show the emotion of the whole thing.

#4 Practice

Be sure you know the capabilities of your camera before Eclipse Day. Most cameras, and even many camera
phones, have adjustable exposures, which can help you darken or lighten your image during the tricky eclipse
lighting. Make sure you know how to manually focus the camera for crisp shots.

For DSLR cameras, the best way to determine the correct exposure is to test settings on the uneclipsed Sun
beforehand. Using a fixed aperture of f/8 to f/16, try shutter speeds between 1/1000 to 1/4 second to find the optimal
setting, which you can then use to take images during the partial stages of the eclipse. During totality, the corona
has a wide range of brightness so its best to use a fixed aperture and a range of exposures from approximately
1/1000 to 1 second.

#5 Share!

Share your eclipse experience with friends and family afterwards. Use the hashtag #Eclipse2017 and tag
@NASAGoddard to connect your photos on social media to those taken around the country and share them with
NASA. Upload your eclipse images to NASAs Eclipse Flickr Gallery and relive the eclipse through other peoples
images. Images will be selected from the gallery and shared on Twitter and Instagram.

While youre out perfecting your perfect eclipse shot, dont forget to stop and look at the eclipse with your own eyes.
Just remember to wear your eclipse safety glasses for all stages of the eclipse before and after totality!

Related Links

By Mara Johnson-Groh
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Last Updated: Aug. 10, 2017


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Editor: Rob Garner

Read Full Article

SDO Solar Mission

May 26, 2017

NASAs SDO Sees Partial Eclipse in Space


On May 25, 2017, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, saw a partial solar eclipse in space when it caught
the moon passing in front of the sun. The lunar transit lasted almost an hour, between 2:24 and 3:17 p.m. EDT, with
the moon covering about 89 percent of the sun at the peak of its journey across the suns face. The moons crisp
horizon can be seen from this view because the moon has no atmosphere to distort the sunlight.

While the moons edge appears smooth in these images, its actually quite uneven. The surface of the moon is
rugged, sprinkled with craters, valleys and mountains. Peer closely at the image, and you may notice the subtle,
bumpy outline of these topographical features.

animation of SDO observations of May 25, 2017, lunar transit

On May 25, 2017, NASAs Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, experienced a partial solar eclipse in space when
it observed the moon passing in front of the sun. The lunar transit lasted about an hour, between 2:24 and 3:17 p.m.
EDT, with the moon covering about 89 percent of the sun at the peak of its journey across the face of the sun.

Credits: NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO/Joy Ng, producer

Later this summer on Aug. 21, 2017, SDO will witness another lunar transit, but the moon will only barely hide part of
the sun. However, on the same day, a total eclipse will be observable from the ground. A total solar eclipse in
which the moon completely obscures the sun will cross the United States on a 70-mile-wide ribbon of land
stretching from Oregon to South Carolina. Throughout the rest of North America and even in parts of South
America, Africa, Europe and Asia a partial eclipse will be visible.

The moons rough, craggy terrain influences what we see on Earth during a total solar eclipse. Light rays stream
through lunar valleys along the moons horizon and form Bailys beads, bright points of light that signal the beginning
and end of totality.

The moons surface also shapes the shadow, called the umbra, that races across the path of totality: Sunlight peeks
through valleys and around mountains, adding edges to the umbra. These edges warp even more as they pass over
Earths own mountain ranges. Visualizers used data from NASAs Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, coupled
with NASA topographical data of Earth, to precisely map the upcoming eclipse in unprecedented detail. This work
shows the umbral shape varies with time, and is not simply an ellipse, but an irregular polygon with slightly curved
edges.

LRO is currently at the moon gathering data and revolutionizing our understanding of Earths nearest celestial
neighbor. Knowing the shape of Earth and the moon plays a big part in accurately predicting the umbras shape as it
falls on Earth, come Aug. 21.

SDO will see its partial eclipse in space just after the total eclipse exits the United States.

For more information about the upcoming total solar eclipse, visit eclipse2017.nasa.gov.
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Related:

By Lina Tran
NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Last Updated: Aug. 3, 2017

Editor: Rob Garner

Read Full Article

Eclipses and Transits

March 17, 2017

NASA Satellites Ready When Stars and Planets Align


The movements of the stars and the planets have almost no impact on life on Earth, but a few times per year, the
alignment of celestial bodies has a visible effect. One of these geometric events the spring equinox is just
around the corner, and another major alignment a total solar eclipse will be visible across America on Aug. 21,
with a fleet of NASA satellites viewing it from space and providing images of the event.

To understand the basics of celestial alignments, here is information on equinoxes, solstices, full moons, eclipses
and transits:

Equinox

Earth spins on a tilted axis. As our planet orbits around the sun, that tilt means that during half of the year, the
Northern Hemisphere receives more daylight its summertime and during the other half of the year, the
Southern Hemisphere does. Twice a year, Earth is in just the right place so that it's lined up with respect to the sun,
and both hemispheres of the planet receive the same amount of daylight. On these days, there are almost equal
amounts of day and night, which is where the word equinox meaning "equal night" in Latin comes from. The
equinox marks the onset of spring with a transition from shorter to longer days for half the planet, along with more
direct sunlight as the sun rises higher above the horizon. In 2017, in the Northern Hemisphere, the spring equinox
occurs on March 20. Six months later, fall begins with the autumnal equinox on Sept. 22.

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During the equinoxes, both hemispheres receive equal amounts of daylight. Image not to scale.

Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Genna Duberstein

Solstice

As Earth continues along in its orbit after the equinox, it eventually reaches a point where its tilt is at the greatest
angle to the plane of its orbit and the point where one half of the planet is receiving the most daylight and the
other the least. This point is the solstice meaning sun stands still in Latin and it occurs twice a year. These
days are our longest and shortest days, and mark the change of seasons to summer and winter.

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During the solstices, Earth reaches a point where its tilt is at the greatest angle to the plane of its orbit, causing one
hemisphere to receive more daylight than the other. Image not to scale.

Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Genna Duberstein

Full Moon and New Moon

As Earth goes around the sun, the moon is also going around Earth. There is a point each month when the three
bodies align with Earth between the sun and the moon. During this phase, viewers on Earth can see the full face of
the moon reflecting light from the sun a full moon. The time between full moons is about four weeks 29.5 days
to be exact. Halfway between full moons, the order of the three bodies reverses and the moon lies between the sun
and Earth. During this time, we can't see the moon reflecting the sun's light, so it appears dark. This is the new
moon.

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When the moon, on its orbit around Earth, reaches the point farthest from the sun, we see a full moon. When the
moon is on the side closest to the sun we can't see the moon reflecting the sun's light, so it appears dark. This is the
new moon.

Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Genna Duberstein

Lunar Eclipse

Sometimes, during a full moon, Earth lines up perfectly between the moon and the sun, so its shadow is cast on the
moon. From Earth's viewpoint, we see a lunar eclipse. The plane of the moons orbit around Earth isnt precisely
aligned with the plane of the Earths orbit around the sun so on most months we don't see an eclipse. The next lunar
eclipse which will be visible throughout much of Asia, Europe, Africa and Australia will occur on Aug. 7.

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When the moon falls completely in Earths shadow, a total lunar eclipse occurs. Only light travelling through Earths
atmosphere, which is bent into the planets shadow, is reflected off the moon, giving it a reddish hue. Image not to
scale.

Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Genna Duberstein

Solar Eclipse

A solar eclipse happens when the moon blocks our view of the sun. This can only happen at a new moon, when the
moon's orbit positions it between the sun and Earth but this doesn't happen every month. As mentioned above,
the plane of the moons orbit around Earth isnt precisely aligned with the plane of the Earths orbit around the sun
so, from Earth's view, on most months we see the moon passing above or below the sun. A solar eclipse happens
only on those new moons where the alignment of all three bodies are in a perfectly straight line.

When the moon blocks all of the suns light, a total eclipse occurs, but when the moon is farther away making it
appear smaller from our vantage point on Earth it blocks most, but not all of the sun. This is called an annular
eclipse, which leaves a ring of the suns light still visible from around the moon. This alignment usually occurs every
year or two, but is only visible from a small area on Earth.

On Aug. 21, a total solar eclipse will move across America. While lunar eclipses are visible from entire hemispheres
of Earth, a total solar eclipse is visible only from a narrow band along Earths surface. Since this eclipse will take
about an hour and a half to cross an entire continent, it is particularly important scientifically, as it allows
observations from many places for an extended duration of time. NASA has funded 11 projects to take advantage of
the 2017 eclipse and study its effects on Earth as well as study the suns atmosphere.

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When the moons orbit around Earth lines up on the same plane as Earths orbit around the sun, its shadow is cast
across the planet. Image not to scale.

Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Genna Duberstein

Transits

An eclipse is really just a special kind of transit which is when any celestial body passes in front of another. From
Earth we are able to watch transits such as Mercury and Venus passing in front of the sun. But such transits also
offer a way to spot new distant worlds. When a planet in another star system passes in front of its host star, it blocks
some of the stars light making it appear slightly dimmer. By watching for changes in the amount of light over time,
we can deduce the presence of a planet. This method has been used to discover thousands of planets, including the
TRAPPIST-1 planets.

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During a transit, a planet passes in between us and the star it orbits. This method is commonly used to find new
exoplanets in our galaxy. Image not to scale.

Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Genna Duberstein

For more information about how NASA looks at these events, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/sunearth

By Mara Johnson-Groh
NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Last Updated: Aug. 3, 2017

Editor: Rob Garner

Read Full Article

Eclipses and Transits

Feb. 27, 2017

NASA Satellite Spots Moons Shadow over Patagonia


On Feb. 26, 2017, an annular eclipse of the sun was visible along a narrow path that stretched from the southern tip
of South America, across the Atlantic Ocean and into southern Africa. Those lucky enough to find themselves in the
eclipses path saw a fiery ring in the sky. Meanwhile, NASAs Terra satellite saw the eclipse from space.

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NASAs Terra satellite captured this image of the edges of the moons shadow over Patagonia at around 13:20

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Universal Time (10:20 a.m. local time) on Feb. 26, 2017. Under the moons shadow, our planets surface and clouds
appear yellowish-brown.

Credits: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team

During an annular eclipse, the moon passes between the sun and Earth, blocking sunlight and casting a shadow on
Earth. But the moon is too far from Earth to completely obscure the sun, so the sun peeks out around the moon.
Looking down on Earth, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS, aboard NASAs Terra
satellite spotted the moons shadow over Patagonia.

Observe the progression of the annular eclipse in this composite image taken from the shore of a small river near
Facundo, Chubut, in Argentina. During an annular eclipse, the moon is too far from Earth to completely obscure the
sun, so the sun peeks out around the moon in a visible ring. This ring is apparent at the very middle of the eclipse
sequence.

Credits: photo copyright Petr Horlek, used with permission

Between two to four solar eclipses occur each year. Later this year, on Aug. 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse in which
the moon completely obscures the sun will cross the United States, from Oregon to South Carolina. Visit
eclipse2017.nasa.gov to learn more.

Related

By Lina Tran
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Last Updated: Aug. 3, 2017

Editor: Rob Garner


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Read Full Article

Eclipses and Transits

Feb. 3, 2017

Eclipse 2017: NASA Supports a Unique Opportunity for Science in the


Shadow
The first total solar eclipse in the continental United States in nearly 40 years takes place on Aug. 21, 2017. Beyond
providing a brilliant sight in the daytime sky, total solar eclipses provide a rare chance for scientists to collect data
only available during eclipses. NASA is funding 11 scientific studies that will take advantage of this opportunity.

When the moon blocks out the sun during a total eclipse, those regions of Earth that are in the direct path of totality
become dark as night for almost three minutes, said Steve Clarke, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA
Headquarters in Washington, D.C. This will be one of the best-observed eclipses to date, and we plan to take
advantage of this unique opportunity to learn as much as we can about the sun and its effects on Earth.

The total solar eclipse of Aug. 21, 2017, stretches across the U.S. from coast to coast, providing scientists with a
unique opportunity to study the eclipse from different vantage points.

Credits: NASAs Scientific Visualization Studio

Download this image and related multimedia from NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio

The August 2017 total solar eclipse will provide a unique opportunity to study Earth, the sun, and their interaction
because of the eclipses long path over land. The path of the total eclipse crosses the U.S. from coast to coast, so
scientists will be able to take ground-based observations over a period of more than an hour to complement the
wealth of data provided by NASA satellites.

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The 11 NASA-funded studies cross a range of disciplines, using the total solar eclipse to observe our sun and Earth,
test new instruments, and even leverage the skills of citizen scientists to expand our understanding of the sun-Earth
system. The studies are listed below, followed by the name of the principal investigator and their home institution.

Studying the sun

During a total solar eclipse, the moon blocks out the suns overwhelmingly bright face, revealing the relatively faint
solar atmosphere, called the corona. Scientists can also use an instrument called a coronagraph which uses a
disk to block out the light of the sun to create an artificial eclipse. However, a phenomenon called diffraction blurs
the light near the disk in a coronagraph, making it difficult to get clear pictures of the inner parts of the corona, so
total solar eclipses remain the only opportunity to study these regions in clear detail in visible light. In many ways,
these inner regions of the corona are the missing link in understanding the sources of space weather so total solar
eclipses are truly invaluable in our quest to understand the sun-Earth connection.

The sun-focused studies are:

Exploring the Physics of the Coronal Plasma through Imaging Spectroscopy during the 21 August 2017 Total
Solar Eclipse (Shadia Habbal, University of Hawaii)
Testing a Polarization Sensor for Measuring Temperature and Flow Speed in the Solar Corona during the
Total Solar Eclipse of 2017 August 21 (Nat Gopalswamy, NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center)
Chasing the 2017 Eclipse: Interdisciplinary Airborne Science from NASA's WB-57 (Amir Caspi, Southwest
Research Institute)
Measuring the Infrared Solar Corona During the 2017 Eclipse (Paul Bryans, University Corporation for
Atmospheric Research)
Citizen Science Approach to Measuring the Polarization of Solar Corona During Eclipse 2017 (Padma
Yanamandra-Fisher, Space Science Institute)
Rosetta-stone experiments at infrared and visible wavelengths during the August 21 2017 Eclipse (Philip
Judge, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research)

Studying Earth

Total solar eclipses are also an opportunity to study Earth under uncommon conditions. The sudden blocking of the
sun during an eclipse reduces the light and temperature on the ground, and these quick-changing conditions can
affect weather, vegetation and animal behavior.

The Earth-focused studies are:

Solar eclipse-induced changes in the ionosphere over the continental US (Philip Erickson, Massachusetts
Institute of Technology)
Quantifying the contributions of ionization sources on the formation of the D-region ionosphere during the
2017 solar eclipse (Robert Marshall, University of Colorado Boulder)
Empirically-Guided Solar Eclipse Modeling Study (Gregory Earle, Virginia Tech)
Using the 2017 Eclipse viewed by DSCOVR/EPIC & NISTAR from above and spectral radiance and
broadband irradiance instruments from below to perform a 3-D radiative transfer closure experiment
(Guoyong Wen, NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center)
Land and Atmospheric Responses to the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse (Bohumil Svoma, University of Missouri)

Related

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2017 total solar eclipse website
NASAs eclipses and transits website

By Sarah Frazier
NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Last Updated: Aug. 4, 2017

Editor: Rob Garner

Read Full Article

Solar System and Beyond

Jan. 5, 2017

NASA Moon Data Provides More Accurate 2017 Eclipse Path


On Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, millions in the U.S. will have their eyes to the sky as they witness a total solar eclipse.
The moons shadow will race across the United States, from Oregon to South Carolina. The path of this shadow,
also known as the path of totality, is where observers will see the moon completely cover the sun. And thanks to
elevation data of the moon from NASAs Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, coupled with detailed NASA
topography data of Earth, we have the most accurate maps of the path of totality for any eclipse to date.

By bringing in a variety of NASA data sets, visualizer Ernie Wright has created a new and more accurate
representation of the eclipse.

This video is public domain and can be downloaded from the Scientific Visualization Studio.

Early map-making

Eclipse maps have long been used to plot the predicted path of the moons shadow as it crosses the face of Earth.
Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel and William Chauvenet, two prominent 19th century astronomers and mathematicians,
developed the math still used to make eclipse maps long before computers and the precise astronomical data
gathered during the Space Age.

Traditionally, eclipse calculations assume that all observers are at sea level and that the moon is a smooth sphere
that is perfectly symmetrical around its center of mass. The calculations do not take into account different elevations
on Earth and the moons cratered, uneven surface.

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A map of the United States showing the path of totality for the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse.

Credits: NASA/Goddard/SVS/Ernie Wright

For slightly more accurate maps, people use elevation tables and plots of the lunar limb the edge of the visible
surface of the moon as seen from Earth. Until recently, astronomers have used the limb profiles published in 1963
by astronomer Chester Burleigh Watts to create eclipse maps of the moons path of totality. To produce his profiles,
Watts designed a machine that traced 700 photographs covering every angle of the moon visible from Earth.

However, eclipse calculations have gained even greater accuracy based on topography data from LRO
observations.

A new look at an ancient phenomenon

Using LRO elevation maps, NASA visualizer Ernie Wright at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland,
created a continuously varying lunar limb profile as the moons shadow passes over the United States as it will
during the upcoming eclipse. The mountains and valleys along the edge of the moons disk affect the timing and
duration of totality by several seconds. Wright also used several NASA data sets to provide an elevation map of
Earth so that eclipse observer locations were depicted at their true altitude.

The resulting visualizations show something never seen before: the true, time-varying shape of the moons shadow,
with the effects of both an accurate lunar limb and the Earths terrain.

We couldnt have done visualizations like this even 10 years ago, Wright said. This is a confluence of increasing
computing power and new datasets from remote sensing platforms like LRO and the Shuttle Radar Topography
Mission.

The lunar umbra is the part of the moons shadow where the entire sun is blocked by the moon. On an eclipse map,
this tells you where to stand in order to experience totality. For centuries, eclipse maps have depicted the shape of
the moons umbra, or darkest part of its shadow, as a smooth ellipse.

As evidenced in the new visualizations, the umbral shape is dramatically altered by both the rugged lunar terrain
and the elevations of observers on Earth.
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Weve known for a while now about the effects of the lunar limb and the elevation of observers on the Earth, but this
is the first time weve really seen it in this way, Wright said. I think itll change how people think about mapping
eclipses.

This map shows a detailed image of the Moon's umbral shadow as it passes over the United States during the
August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse.

Credits: NASA/Goddard/SVS/Ernie Wright

The true shape of the umbra is more like an irregular polygon with slightly curved edges. Each edge corresponds to
a single valley on the lunar limb, the last spot on the limb that lets sunlight through. As these edges pass over
mountain ranges, they are scalloped by the peaks and valleys of the landscape. The moons umbra will cross the
Cascades, Rockies and Appalachians during the 2017 eclipse.

Solar and lunar eclipses provide an excellent opportunity to talk about the moon, since without the moon there
would be no eclipses, said Noah Petro, deputy project scientist for LRO. Because we know the shape of the moon
better than any other planetary body, thanks to LRO, we can now accurately predict the shape of the shadow as it
falls on the face of the Earth. In this way, LRO data sheds new light on our predictions for the upcoming eclipse.

The total solar eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017 will cross the continental United States beginning in Oregon and
ending in South Carolina. The last time a total solar eclipse spanned the United States was in 1918, when the path
of totality entered through the southwest corner of Washington and passed over Denver, Colorado, Jackson,
Mississippi, and Orlando, Florida before exiting the country at the Atlantic coast of Florida.

For more information about the upcoming 2017 solar eclipse, visit:
https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov
or
https://www.nasa.gov/eclipse

More information on the numerous NASA data sets incorporated into this visualization:
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Blue Marble Next Generation was used for color of the land.
Shuttle Radar Topography Mission was used for Earth elevations. This is a global elevation map based on a radar
instrument flown on Space Shuttle Endeavour during STS-99 in February 2000.
Lunar Digital Elevation Model and Selene/LRO Digital Elevation Model were used for the lunar limb.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory's DE421 provided Earth, moon, and sun positions.

By Sarah Schlieder

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Last Updated: Aug. 4, 2017

Editor: Karl Hille

Read Full Article

Eclipses and Transits

Dec. 14, 2016

Preparing for the August 2017 Total Solar Eclipse


Related multimedia at NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio

On Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, a total eclipse will cross the entire country, coast-to-coast, for the first time since 1918.
Weather permitting, the entire continent will have the opportunity to view an eclipse as the moon passes in front of
the sun, casting a shadow on Earths surface. And plans for this once-in-a-lifetime eclipse are underway scientists
are submitting research proposals, NASA is sharing information on safe eclipse viewing with community centers,
and citizen science projects are developing.

The total solar eclipse begins near Lincoln City, Oregon, at 10:15 a.m. PDT (1:15 p.m. EDT). Totality ends at 2:48
p.m. EDT near Charleston, South Carolina. The partial eclipse will start earlier and end later, but the total eclipse
itself will take about one hour and 40 minutes to cross the country. NASA will fund a host of science projects that will
occur during this unique period of time.

A view of the United States during the total solar eclipse of Aug. 21, 2017, showing the umbra (black oval),
penumbra (concentric shaded ovals) and path of totality (red). This version includes images of the sun, showing its
appearance in a number of locations, each oriented to the local horizon.
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Credits: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

Download this video in HD formats from NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio

Scientists from NASA, the University of Texas Arlington and the University of Hawaii presented an overview of the
2017 total solar eclipse at the American Geophysical Unions Fall Meeting in San Francisco on Dec.14, 2016. They
discussed the geometry of eclipses, eclipse science now and throughout the ages, and how to safely view next
years solar eclipse.

Solar eclipses occur when the moon blocks any part of the sun. Total solar eclipses, however, are only possible on
Earth because of a cosmic quirk of geometry: The suns diameter is 400 times wider than the moons, but it is also
400 times farther away. The result is that the sun and the moon appear to be the same size from our perspective.
When they line up just right, the moon can obscure the suns entire surface, creating a total solar eclipse. This line-
up occurs once every 12 to 18 months. Partial solar eclipses, on the other hand, occur when the alignment is such
that the moon blocks only part of the sun, and these can occur more frequently.

During a total eclipse, we have the rare opportunity to look directly at the suns vast, striking outer atmosphere, the
corona. The corona appears as pearly white rays and streamers, radiating around the lunar disk. The August 2017
eclipse will present this exciting opportunity to millions across the entire country.

But total solar eclipses are more than simply beautiful to look at. They provide unique opportunities for science
and many kinds of science at that. Indeed, total eclipses throughout history have paved the way for major scientific
findings across various disciplines.

Ancient people in different civilizations were able to discern celestial patterns and predict eclipses without
understanding the science, said Ramon Lopez, a space physicist at the University of Texas Arlington.

Lopez went on to describe landmarks in the history of eclipse science, such as the expedition to confirm the theory
of general relativity, the first report of coronal mass ejections and the discovery that the corona is very hot much
hotter than the surface of the sun.

An eclipse teaches us so many things, but the 2017 eclipse is especially unique because of the uninterrupted land
masses it will pass over, said Lika Guhathakurta, an astrophysicist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. This will
allow us to maximize our chance to collect data and connect the shadow of the moon to Earth science.

Guhathakurta described a variety of topics that NASA-funded eclipse projects may explore, including the varying
luminosity of the sun and the relationship between surface temperatures and atmospheric changes.

To discuss recent eclipse science, University of Hawaii astronomer Shadia Habbal presented her work on the
science of the corona. Habbal travels around the world, chasing down eclipses, and uses specialized cameras to
image the corona during totality.

This image of the solar corona is a color overlay of the emission from highly ionized iron lines, with white light
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images added below. Different colors provide unique information about the temperature and composition of solar
material in the corona.

Credits: S. Habbal/M. Druckmller

A white light image of the solar corona during totality.

Credits: M. Druckmller

It is in the corona that we observe giant solar eruptions like solar flares and coronal mass ejections, and the origin of
the solar wind, the continuous flow of charged particles from the sun. All of these constantly shape the very nature of
the space around Earth and other planets. Studying the corona and its role in the interconnected sun-space system
is crucial for understanding not only the relationship between Earth and the sun, but also the space environment our
satellites and astronauts must travel through for future exploration.

There is a whole spectrum of colors of light that our eyes cannot see, Habbal said. From these different colors, we
can directly probe into the physics of the corona. Different colors provide unique information about the temperature
and composition of solar material in the corona.

Of course, the beauty of the August 2017 eclipse is that anyone can view it no science background or heavy-duty
equipment is required. Alex Young, a solar scientist at NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland,
presented an overview of eclipse safety.

Even during an eclipse, it is not safe to look directly at the sun except for the brief phase of totality, when the moon
fully obscures the sun. The only safe way to look directly at the partially eclipsed sun is through a specialized filter.
Eclipse glasses are equipped with the proper filters to minimize ultraviolet, visible and infrared light.

Its crucial to know when to take off and replace your glasses to avoid permanently damaging your eyes. Young
described the different phases of a total eclipse , in which the sun provides important visual clues for when totality is
about to start and end.

If youre wearing your eclipse glasses and it becomes so dark you cant see anything, you know its safe and its
time to take them off, Young said.

When viewing a partial eclipse, observers must use eye protection at all times. Partial eclipses can be observed
indirectly by projection, in which viewers watch the eclipse on a screen. These can be easily constructed at home
with few, simple materials such as a piece of paper and cardboard box.

Related Links

Banner image: Illustration of 2017 solar eclipse's apparent path across the continental United States. Credit:
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NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

By Lina Tran
NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Last Updated: Aug. 4, 2017

Editor: Rob Garner

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SDO Solar Mission

Oct. 31, 2016

NASAs SDO Catches a Lunar Transit


On Oct. 30, 2016, NASAs Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, experienced a partial solar eclipse in space when
it caught the moon passing in front of the sun. The lunar transit lasted one hour, between 3:56 p.m. and 4:56 p.m.
EDT, with the moon covering about 59 percent of the sun at the peak of its journey across the face of the sun. The
moons shadow obstructs SDOs otherwise constant view of the sun, and the shadows edge is sharp and distinct,
since the moon has no atmosphere which would distort sunlight.

compilation of SDO images showing transit of moon across face of the sun

On Oct. 30, 2016, NASAs Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, experienced a partial solar eclipse in space when
it caught the moon passing in front of the sun. The lunar transit lasted one hour, between 3:56 p.m. and 4:56 p.m.
EDT, with the moon covering about 59 percent of the sun at the peak of its journey across the face of the sun.

Credits: NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO/Joy Ng

From SDOs point of view, the sun appears to be shaking slightly but not because the solar observatory was
spooked by this near-Halloween sight. Instead, the shaking results from slight adjustments in SDOs guidance
system, which normally relies upon viewing the entire sun to center the images between exposures. SDO captured
these images in extreme ultraviolet light, a type of light invisible to human eyes. The imagery here is colorized in
red.

Related Links

NASA's SDO website


NASA's eclipses and transits website

By Lina Tran
NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Last Updated: Aug. 4, 2017

Editor: Rob Garner

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SDO Solar Mission

Aug. 10, 2016

SDO Status Update - Aug. 10, 2016


UPDATE, Aug. 10, 2016 (1:58 p.m. EDT) - All three of SDOs instruments are now online and sending science data
back to Earth. You can see SDOs data including near real-time images of the sun at sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov/data.

UPDATE, Aug. 4, 2016 (3:26 p.m. EDT) - Two of SDOs three science instruments the Helioseismic and Magnetic
Imager, or HMI, and the Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment, or EVE are online and sending science data to
Earth. The SDO team is currently working on getting its third science instrument the Atmospheric Imaging
Assembly, or AIA back online.

Original Story, Aug. 3, 2016 (5:03 p.m. EDT) - NASAs Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, saw a lunar transit
when the moon passes between the spacecraft and the sun on Aug. 2, 2016, from 7:13 a.m. to 8:08 a.m. EDT. The
spacecraft did not go back into science mode at the end of the transit. SDO is currently in inertial mode. The team is
receiving data from the spacecraft and is bringing SDOs instruments back online.

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NASAs Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, saw a lunar transit when the moon passes between the spacecraft
and the sun on Aug. 2, 2016, from 7:13 a.m. to 8:08 a.m. EDT.

Credits: NASA/SDO

Sarah Frazier
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Last Updated: Aug. 4, 2017

Editor: Rob Garner

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SDO Solar Mission

May 10, 2016

Mercury Transit (Composite Image)

On May 9, 2016, Mercury passed directly between the sun and Earth. This event which happens about 13 times
each century is called a transit. NASAs Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, studies the sun 24/7 and captured
the entire seven-and-a-half-hour event. This composite image of Mercurys journey across the sun was created with
visible-light images from the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager on SDO.

View video of the 2016 Mercury transit


Read more about the transit

Image Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO/Genna Duberstein

Last Updated: Aug. 4, 2017

Editor: Rob Garner

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Eclipses and Transits

May 3, 2016

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Satellites to See Mercury Enter Spotlight on May 9
It happens only a little more than once a decade and the next chance to see it is Monday, May 9. Throughout the
U.S., sky watchers can watch Mercury pass between Earth and the sun in a rare astronomical event known as a
planetary transit. Mercury will appear as a tiny black dot as it glides in front of the suns blazing disk over a period of
seven and a half hours. Three NASA satellites will be providing images of the transit and one of them will have a
near-live feed.

The 2016 Mercury transit (depicted conceptually here) will occur between about 7:12 a.m. and 2:42 p.m. EDT on
May 9.

Credits: NASA

Although Mercury zooms around the sun every 88 days, Earth, the sun and Mercury rarely align. And because
Mercury orbits in a plane that is tilted from Earths orbit, it usually moves above or below our line of sight to the sun.
As a result, Mercury transits occur only about 13 times a century.

Transits provide a great opportunity to study the way planets and stars move in space information that has been
used throughout the ages to better understand the solar system and which still helps scientists today calibrate their
instruments. Three of NASA's solar telescopes will watch the transit for just that reason.

The May 9 Mercury transit will occur between about 7:12 a.m. and 2:42 p.m. EDT. Mercury is too small to see
without magnification, but it can be seen with a telescope or binoculars. These must be outfitted with a solar filter as
you can't safely look at the sun directly.

Astronomers get excited when any two things come close to each other in the heavens, said Louis Mayo, program
manager at NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. This is a big deal for us.

Mercury transits have been key to helping astronomers throughout history: In 1631, astronomers first observed a
Mercury transit. Those observations allowed astronomers to measure the apparent size of Mercurys disk, as well as
help them estimate the distance from Earth to the sun.

Back in 1631, astronomers were only doing visual observations on very small telescopes by todays standards,
said Mayo.

Since then, technological advancements have allowed us to study the sun and planetary transits in greater detail. In
return, transits allow us to test our spacecraft and instruments.

Scientists for the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO (jointly operated by NASA and ESA, the European
Space Agency), and NASAs Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, will work in tandem to study the May 9 transit.
The Hinode solar mission will also observe the event. Hinode is a collaboration between the space agencies of
Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe led by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

ESA/NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory watched Mercury move across the face of the sun during the most
recent Mercury transit on Nov. 9, 2006, as shown in this movie. SOHO will also view the transit on May 9, 2016.

Credits: NASA

SOHO launched in December 1995 with 12 instruments to study the sun from the deep solar core all the way out to
the sun's effects on the rest of the solar system. Two of these instruments the Extreme ultraviolet Imaging
Telescope and the Michelson Doppler Imager will be brought back into full operation to take measurements during
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the transit after five years of quiescence.

For one thing, the SOHO will measure the suns rotation axis using images captured by the spacecraft.

Instruments on board SDO and SOHO use different spectral lines, different wavelengths and they have slightly
different optical properties to study solar oscillations, said SOHO Project Scientist Joseph Gurman. Transit
measurements will help us better determine the solar rotation axis.

Such data is another piece of a long line of observations, which together help us understand how the sun changes
over hours, days, years and decades.

It used to be hard to observe transits, Gurman said. If you were in a place that had bad weather, for example, you
missed your chance and had to wait for the next one. These instruments help us make our observations, despite
any earthly obstacles.

SDO will be able to use the transit to help with instrument alignment. Because scientists know so precisely where
Mercury should be in relationship to the sun, they can use it as a marker to fine tune exactly how their instruments
should be pointed.

The transit can also be used to help calibrate space instruments. The utter darkness of the planet provides an
opportunity to study effects on the observations of stray light within the instrument. The backside of Mercury should
appear black as it moves across the face of the sun. But because instruments scatter some light, Mercury will look
slightly illuminated.

Its like getting a cataract you see stars or halos around bright lights as though you are looking through a misty
windshield, said SDO Project Scientist Dean Pesnell. We have the same problem with our instruments.

Scientists run software on the images to try and mitigate the effect and check whether it can remove all of the
scattered light.

For those of us down on the ground, it is worth trying to find a local astronomy club with a solar telescope to see if
you can witness this rare event. Alternatively, a near-live feed of SDO images will be available at
www.nasa.gov/transit.

Related Links

Sarah Schlieder
NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Last Updated: Aug. 4, 2017

Editor: Rob Garner

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Mercury (Planet)

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May 3, 2016

MEDIA ADVISORY M16-050

NASA to Provide Coverage of May 9 Mercury Transit of the Sun


NASA is inviting media and viewers around the world to see a relatively rare celestial event, with coverage of the
Monday, May 9 transit of the sun by the planet Mercury. Media may view the event at NASAs Goddard Space Flight
Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Agency scientists will be available at the Goddard viewing event for live media interviews from 6 to 11:30 a.m. EDT.
To attend, media must contact Michelle Handleman at michelle.z.handleman@nasa.gov. To schedule an interview
with a NASA scientist at the event, contact Claire Saravia, claire.g.desaravia@nasa.gov.

Mercury passes between Earth and the sun only about 13 times a century, its last trek taking place in 2006. Due to
its diminutive size, viewing this event safely requires a telescope or high-powered binoculars fitted with solar filters
made of specially-coated glass or Mylar.

NASA is offering several avenues for the public to view the event without specialized and costly equipment,
including images on NASA.gov, a one-hour NASA Television special, and social media coverage.

Mercury will appear as a small black dot as it crosses the edge of the sun and into view at 7:12 a.m. The planet will
make a leisurely journey across the face of the sun, reaching mid-point at approximately 10:47 a.m., and exiting the
golden disk at 2:42 p.m. The entire 7.5-hour path across the sun will be visible across the Eastern United States
with magnification and proper solar filters while those in the West can observe the transit in progress after sunrise.

The 2016 Mercury transit (depicted conceptually here) will occur between about 7:12 a.m. and 2:42 p.m. EDT on
May 9.

Credits: NASA

Images from NASAs Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) will be posted at:

http://www.nasa.gov/transit

NASA also will stream a live program on NASA TV and the agencys Facebook page from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. -- an
informal roundtable during which experts representing planetary, heliophysics and astrophysics will discuss the
science behind the Mercury transit. Viewers can ask questions via Facebook and Twitter using #AskNASA.
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Roundtable participants include:

Jim Green, planetary science director at NASA Headquarters in Washington


Lika Guhathakurta, heliophysics program scientist at NASA Headquarters
Nicky Fox, project scientist for the Solar Probe Plus mission at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics
Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland
Doug Hudgins, Exoplanet Exploration Program scientist at NASA Headquarters

To view a NASA ScienceCast video on the rare opportunity the Mercury transit poses for professional astronomers
and backyard sky watchers alike, go to:

http://youtu.be/Gibaxh9x7O0

Images and animations for b-roll are available through NASAs Scientific Visualization Studio at:

http://go.nasa.gov/1X51Duz

For fast facts about Mercury, and more information on the 2016 transit of the sun, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/transit

-end-

Last Updated: Aug. 4, 2017

Editor: Karen Northon

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