Public Domain

Project of the Week #5: the 2017 Eclipse

This week's Project of the Week is dedicated to our friends in America, and all those who've gone over specially to visit: citizen science during the solar eclipse.

What does this project do?
Strictly speaking, this isn't a single project: there are six different ones! So you still have a few hours to pick one from this list.

Note: not all of these are still available as a few need some preparation, but we thought you'd like to hear about all of them!

The Globe program: an international data gathering and training system. We don't recommend this unless you're already a member: you have to join and get trained.

HamSci: Radio operators are looking to see if the Earth's ionosphere changes during an eclipse.

Citizen CATE (The Citizen Continental-America Telescopic Eclipse Experiment) will track the Sun with over 60 telescopes to view its corona.

The QuantumWeather project is taking surface and atmospheric temperatures to see how these changes.

The California Academy of Sciences is looking at changes in animal behaviour during an eclipse. Animals often think it's night and then morning in quick succession and frogs and birds, among others, can become delightfully noisy.

EclipseMob is also studying the ionosphere.

What do I have to do?

The Globe Program: Record cloud cover before, during and after the eclipse. By gathering a lot of data, we will see if eclipses change atmospheric conditions. You can record here and get the app here.

HamSci: there are various ways to get involved; you choose.

CitizenCATE: unluckily it looks too late to join, but you can watch the scientific results and get ready for next time. The same for QuantumWeather.

Life Responds: Join iNaturalist's Eclipse project.

EclipseMob: this involves some preparation and setting up of equipment the day before and taking measurements before, during and after, so this is one to just watch for now if you're not already involved.

NOTE: Don't look directly at the Sun at any time, and that is still the case during an eclipse. There seems to be a rumour going round that it is more dangerous during an eclipse. This is not because the Sun gets brighter (it doesn't), but it is a lot more interesting and tempting to look at. Wear your eclipse glasses at all times!

Where can I find out more?

NASA has a whole eclipse page, and it's been covered a lot in the news.

What's Citizen Science Project of the Week?
Citizen Science Project of the Week is a regular Monday feature at Doing It Together Science. What project would you like to see featured? Please let us know on the contact form, Facebook page or email us at info@togetherscience.eu. Please put "Project of the Week" in the subject line and send us a link to the project, some information about it and why you'd like it featured. If you want us to, we'll credit you and tag you on Facebook!

More details:
A solar eclipse is when the Moon gets directly in the way of the Sun. They appear the same size in the sky, because the Sun is 400 times larger than the Moon, but also 400 times further away. This will not last forever as the Moon is very slowly receding from the Earth, but it won't change in our lifetimes.

A lunar eclipse is much more common, because the Earth is larger than the Moon: the Earth gets in the way of the Sun from the point of view of the Moon. The Moon doesn't vanish, but the light that falls on it has gone through the edges of the Earth's atmosphere: the sunrises and sunsets. That's why it's red.

Eclipses are dramatic events, and much excitement and therefore many stories and sometimes myths spring up around them. But now we can use citizen science to check some of these out for ourselves!

They are also an excellent way to reveal things near the Sun, which are usually too subtle to see in the Sun's intense light. For example, the Sun's corona - its outer atmosphere, as shown in the picture at the top, which was taken by Miloslav Druckmüller, Martin Dietzel, Peter Aniol and Vojtech Rušin. You can look these up on Astronomy Picture of the Day and on Miloslav Druckmüller's website.

It was also a solar eclipse which proved that Einstein was right about relativity! An astronomer named Arthur Eddington sailed across the world to watch it in 1917 and record the positions of the stars around the Sun. They did indeed appear to have moved positions from where we would normally see them, demonstrating that the Sun's gravity was bending the stars' light. Einstein and Eddington both became famous because of that eclipse.

Watch this space (pun intended) for what we'll all discover together this time ...