Today's Eclipse Brings Opportunity For Citizen Science

Apr 8, 2024

Path of the Total Solar Eclipse for 4/8/24

Thought Question: When you find a topic fascinating, how do you learn more about it?

NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, wants people across the US to be safe when viewing today’s solar eclipse. Once you’ve got your special eclipse glasses, indirect viewers, or other safe eyewear, NASA would love to put your peepers to work. It wants the public's help to gather valuable data about this rare event.    

The totality of the eclipse is the path within which skygazers will see the sun fully blocked by the moon. It runs from Mexico's west coast to Maine's tip and into Canada. Those right beneath the blotted sun will see darkness fall during the day. Some colors will look strange (red will get duller and green brighter, for instance). There will be other quirky side effects, too. Here are a few of the phenomena NASA has asked citizen scientists to keep an (well-shielded) eye on:     

Solar Snapshots: Got a camera with a solar filter? You can help capture solar jets and flares. The Sun is always firing off spikes of superheated plasma (jets) and light (flares). But they’re normally hard to observe. The eclipse will allow special cameras to record them, and NASA wants as many angles as possible.   

The Shape of the Sun: Though it seems spherical, the sun is slightly bigger “around the waist.” How much bigger? The eclipse might give us a better idea. NASA is asking watchers to look out for “Baily’s Beads.” They're little spots of sunlight that peek out from around the edges of the moon during totality. Lots of beads = a bigger belly for our star. 

Shady Soundscapes: NASA is asking those across habitats to record the sounds of nature during the eclipse. Do birds sing differently? Do squirrels chitter more? Do wolves howl? Researchers hope to get a sense of how creatures react to today’s eclipse. 

Based on the information in the infographic, which of the following states will have some residents who experience the April 8 eclipse in totality? (Common Core RI.5.7; RI.6.7)
a. Washington
b. California
c. New Jersey
d. Texas
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