NASA seeks citizen scientists to capture the April 2024 total solar eclipse

By | September 19, 2023

Observers planning to observe the total solar eclipse in April next year will be able to use a new NASA-funded app to record valuable data about the sun, the space agency announced last week.

Using the free SunSketcher 2024 app, citizen scientists can help advance heliophysics research by clicking as many images of the sun just before and after the sun. solar eclipse. These images will help record images of a bright, broken ring of sunlight known as Baily Pearlsshining through mountains and valleys at the edge of the moon just before and after eclipses.

“There are so many ways to participate in NASA science, especially as we enter the Big Year of Heliophysics,” space physicist Elizabeth MacDonald, NASA’s heliophysics citizen science manager, said in an article. declaration. “We are so excited to see these and many other projects come to life.”

Related: Total solar eclipse 2024: everything you need to know

SunSketcher 2024 was developed by a team of students and professors at Western Kentucky University (WKU) and is the most recent of five projects to receive funding from NASA this year to collect scientific data from the next total solar eclipse.

“Our goal is to get a group of people – millions, hopefully – onto the path of the eclipse, to use our app and take some photos of the sun as the eclipse happens and after the eclipse ends,” Starr May, a computer science major at WKU working on SunSketcher 2024, said in a different statementT.

The SunSketcher 2024 app is a makeshift version of an app used for a similar purpose during a total solar eclipse in August 2017, scientists say. The new app will use smartphones’ GPS coordinates to precisely track when the Baily’s Beads phenomenon will begin and end locally along the path of totality, meaning where the moon’s shadow will fall on Earth during the eclipse.

This NASA reference article outlines the onset of temporal totality in 12 U.S. states that are in the path of totality for the April 2024 eclipse: Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

Images from all observations will eventually be combined into an hour-long “megafilm” to better understand the shape of the sun using the moon as a reference. Specifically, the observations will reveal how far the Sun deviates from being a perfect sphere, scientists say.

“This information will lead to a better understanding of flows within the sun and is also critical for testing gravitational theories,” NASA representatives wrote in last week’s statement.


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Other citizen science projects funded by the space agency include an experiment to study the structure of the planet solar wind and the corona, which is the outermost part of the solar atmosphere and is long puzzled scientists being at least a thousand times hotter than the surface of the sun.

NASA also plans a second megafilm to record the thin layer beneath the corona known as the chromosphere. The megafilm will be the final result of image processing competition for volunteer photographers and data analysts, aiming to reveal jets of plasma in images captured during the 2024 eclipse.

The sun is constantly becoming more active as it approaches the expected peak of activity in 2025, so next year’s April eclipse will likely capture more activity on the sun than 2017’s total solar eclipse.

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