How NASA Gets Ready for a Solar Eclipse

August 16, 2017

Are you ready for the total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017? NASA sure is. And their new 2017 eclipse-dedicated website wants you to be ready too! A North American eclipse of this magnitude offers scientists and engineers a unique opportunity to study and observe a rare natural phenomenon. So, they’ve got several research projects planned across the nation—both in the sky and on the land—as well as ways to get you in on the action at home.

“NASA is supporting research using balloons, ground measurements, and planes that ‘chase’ the eclipse, all of which can help scientists take continuous measurements of the sun and the eclipse’s effects on Earth for relatively long periods of time,” reads NASA’s detailed breakdown of the imminent research.

The data and information NASA gathers from the eclipse could challenge commonly accepted ideas and theories as well as answer lingering questions in multiple disciplines. One of those big mysteries include the sun’s corona. You might already know that in a solar eclipse, the moon gets between the Earth and the sun. Depending on where you are when it happens, the sun appears to be partially or totally covered. For many that will mean darkness at an hour that isn’t typically dark. But for NASA scientists, it will be the best visual of the sun’s lower atmosphere that appears as a bright halo of light emitted around the moon called the corona. The NASA website goes on to assert that “the lower part of the corona is key to understanding many processes on the sun, including why the sun’s atmosphere is so much hotter than its surface, as well as the process by which the sun sends out a constant stream of solar material and radiation, which can cause changes in the nature of space and impact spacecraft, communications systems, and orbiting astronauts”. Sounds pretty useful for future missions!The totality point when the moon fully blocks the sun revealing the corona.

Because this is such a monumental scientific and celestial event, NASA makes it a point to include everyone in on the action—especially all the citizen scientists at home—with just as much excitement and anticipation. They’ve compiled a massive list of official viewing sites including national parks, zoos, airports, and more within the eclipse path. Some of these locations will even host eclipse parties. Or if staying home is more your style, read NASA’s step-by-step guide to throwing an eclipse party. And what’s an eclipse party without activities? Check out the activities page for a myriad of arts & craft projects, math and science challenges, and some tips on how to get your own eclipse data.

We can tell NASA’s ready. And we hope you’re getting ready too! Check out the interactive map with timelines to best plan out where you’ll be during eclipse time. 

Photos are courtesy of NASA's eclipse website.