Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

Subscribe free to our newsletters via your

NASA's science during the March 2016 total solar eclipse
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Mar 04, 2016

The moon will pass in front of the sun, casting its shadow over much of Southeast Asia on March 8, 2016 EST (March 9 local time). People on the nearly 100-mile-wide path of totality will experience a total solar eclipse, in which all of the sun's bright face is blocked by the moon, while people outside this path will see varying degrees of a partial eclipse. Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/E. Wright. See more charts and illustrations here

As the moon slowly covers the face of the sun on the morning of March 9, 2016, in Indonesia, a team of NASA scientists will be anxiously awaiting the start of totality - because at that moment, their countdown clock begins.

They plan to take 59 several-second exposures of the sun in just over three minutes, capturing data on the innermost parts of the sun's volatile, superhot atmosphere - a region we can only observe during total solar eclipses when the sun's overwhelmingly bright face is completely blocked by the moon.

"The sun's atmosphere is where the interesting physics is," said Nelson Reginald, one of several space scientists from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who will conduct an experiment in Indonesia during March 2016's total solar eclipse. "A total solar eclipse gives us the opportunity to see very close to the solar limb."

The lower part of the sun's atmosphere, the corona, is one of the most scientifically interesting areas of the sun. It's thought to hold the keys to several solar mysteries, from the acceleration of the solar wind, to the birth of explosive clouds of solar material called coronal mass ejections, to the mysterious heating of the corona as a whole.

Using a new instrument, the NASA science team will observe aspects of polarized light that carry information about the temperature and velocity of electrons in the lower corona.

Though it's about as bright as the full moon, the corona is ordinarily drowned out by the sun's much brighter face, except during total solar eclipses. To study the corona outside of total solar eclipses, scientists use instruments called coronagraphs, which create artificial eclipses by using solid disks to block sun's bright face and reveal the comparatively faint corona. But because light bends around sharp edges - a phenomenon known as diffraction - coronagraph disks obscure the inner corona, as well as the solar surface, to combat this effect.

"You can't see the corona that close to the surface with a coronagraph. You cut off a large portion of the innermost corona," said Nat Gopalswamy, principal investigator of the eclipse experiment at Goddard. "The main advantage of the total solar eclipse is seeing much closer to the sun's surface."

The team will use their three minutes of totality to examine the polarized light coming from the sun's inner corona, light that contains information about the temperature and velocity of the electrons there.

Light is polarized when its electric field oscillates along one axis, for instance, up-and-down or side-to-side. Unlike dust, electrons mainly scatter polarized light, meaning that isolating the polarized light can give information about the temperature and flow speed of coronal electrons. Polarized light scattered by these electrons dominates in the regions of the corona closest to the solar surface - so total solar eclipses are our best chance to gather this information.

"We first used this instrument during the 1999 total solar eclipse in Turkey," said Reginald.

The minutes-long timeframe of total solar eclipses limits the amount of data we can collect during our occasional glimpses at the inner corona, so the team rebuilt their instrument over the last year to make it even faster.

"Before, we would have had use a polarizer that would turn through three angles for each wavelength filter," said Reginald. "The new polarization camera eliminates the need for a polarization wheel."

Rather than using a hand-turned polarization wheel to take three separate images in each polarized direction, the new camera uses thousands of tiny polarization filters to read light polarized in different directions simultaneously.

Each pixel in the new camera is made of four subpixels with differently-oriented polarization filters, which provides the team with four separate but simultaneous images of the corona and cuts out the need to change polarization filters between exposures.

"We've cut down the length of time required for our experiment by more than 50 percent," said Gopalswamy. "The polarization camera is faster and less risky, because it's one less moving part."

Though the team will be performing the experiment for the first time in the province of North Maluku, Indonesia - chosen for its accessibility and high chances of clear skies during the eclipse - they've already given their updated instrument a test run.

"The brightness of the full moon is about equal to the brightness of the total solar eclipse," said Reginald. "So we set up our telescope in the parking lot for practice."

In partnership with Exploratorium, NASA TV will be showing a live stream of the eclipse on March 8, 2016, from 8-9 pm ET.


Related Links
Eclipses at NASA
Solar and Lunar Eclipses at Skynightly

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
Rare supermoon eclipse to take over night sky
Washington (UPI) Sep 27, 2015
A rare total lunar eclipse, called a supermoon eclipse or blood moon, will be visible around the world Sunday night into Monday, the first time since 1982 and the last until 2033. The celestial event will be visible in most of North America, South America, Europe, Africa, western Asia and the eastern Pacific. In the United States, the eclipse will begin at 8:11 p.m. ET Sunday and peak a ... read more

NASA May Return to Moon, But Only After Cutting Off ISS

Lunar love: When science meets artistry

New Lunar Exhibit Features NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Imagery

NASA releases strange 'music' heard by 1969 astronauts

MAVEN Observes Mars Moon Phobos in the Mid- and Far-Ultraviolet

SSL developing robotic sample handling assembly for Mars 2020

Monster volcano gave Mars extreme makeover: study

Rover begins contact science of rock target on Knudsen Ridge

Launch America: Suni Williams on Commercial Crew

Orion Solar Array Wing Deployment Test is a Success

Orion launch abort motor case passes structural qualification test

Former Marine astronaut leading flight plans for NASA's mission

China to Launch Over 100 Long March Rockets Within Five Years

Moving in to Tiangong 2

Logistics Rule on Tiangong 2

China to launch second space lab Tiangong-2 in Q3

International Space Station's '1-year crew' returns to Earth

Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko return to Earth after One-Year Mission

Paragon wins NASA ISS water processor development contract

NASA's Science Command Post Supports Scott Kelly's Year In Space

At last second, SpaceX delays satellite launch again

Arianespace Soyuz to launch 2 Galileo satellites in May

SpaceX postpones rocket launch again

Russian rocket engines ban could leave US space program in limbo

Imaging Technique May Help Discover Earth-Like Planets Around Other Stars

Newly discovered planet in the Hyades cluster could shed light on planetary evolution

Imaging technique may help discover Earth-like planets

Longest-Lasting Stellar Eclipse Discovered

New NIST method may find elusive flaws in medical implants and spacecraft

Spacepath Communications creates new joint venture with Polarity in US

Chinese firm abandons acquisition over US scrutiny

Bone research could yield stronger synthetic materials

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.