“And yet, they were all exactly alike. Every one of them was chalky pale, the palest of all the students living in this sunless town… They all had very dark eyes despite the range in hair tones. They also had dark shadows under those eyes—purplish, bruise-like shadows. As if they were all suffering from a sleepless night… Their faces, so different, so similar, were all devastatingly, inhumanly beautiful.”
All Eyes on the Sky for the August 21 Total Solar Eclipse
Just two months from now, the moon will completely block the sun’s face, treating part of the US to a total solar eclipse.
Everyone in North America will have the chance to see an eclipse of some kind if skies are clear. Anyone within a 70-mile-wide swath of land — called the path of totality — that stretches from Oregon to South Carolina will have the chance to see a total eclipse.
Throughout the rest of the continent, including all 50 United States — and even in parts of South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia — the moon will partially obscure the sun, creating a partial eclipse.
Photo credit: NASA/Cruikshank
An eclipse is one of nature’s most awesome sights, but safety comes first! When any part of the sun’s surface is exposed, use proper eclipse glasses (not sunglasses) or an indirect viewing method, like a pinhole projector. In the path of totality, it’s safe to look directly at the eclipse ONLY during the brief moments of totality.
During a total solar eclipse, the moon blocks out the sun’s bright face, revealing the otherwise hidden solar atmosphere, called the corona. The corona is one of the sun’s most interesting regions — key to understanding the root of space weather events that shape Earth’s space environment, and mysteries such as why the sun’s atmosphere is so much hotter than its surface far below.
This is the first time in nearly 100 years that a solar eclipse has crossed the United States from coast to coast. We’re taking advantage of this long eclipse path by collecting data that’s not usually accessible — including studying the solar corona, testing new corona-observing instruments, and tracking how our planet’s atmosphere, plants, and animals respond to the sudden loss of light and heat from the sun.
We’ll be studying the eclipse from the ground, from airplanes, with research balloons, and of course, from space.
Three of our sun-watchers — the Solar Dynamics Observatory, IRIS, and Hinode, a joint mission led by JAXA — will see a partial eclipse from space. Several of our Earth-observing satellites will use the eclipse to study Earth under uncommon conditions. For example, both Terra and DSCOVR, a joint mission led by NOAA, will capture images of the moon’s shadow from space. Our Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will also turn its instruments to face Earth and attempt to track the moon’s shadow as it moves across the planet.
There’s just two months to go until August 21, so make your plans now for the big day! No matter where you are, you can follow the eclipse as it crosses the country with live footage from NASA TV.
Learn more about the upcoming total solar eclipse — including where, when, and how to safely experience it — at eclipse2017.nasa.gov and follow along on Twitter @NASASun.
“Jasper is very interesting. He was quite charismatic in his first life, able to influence those around him to see things his way. Now he is able to manipulate the emotions of those around him—calm down a room of angry people, for example, or excite a lethargic crowd, conversely. It’s a very subtle gift.”
The Moon Just Photobombed NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory
On May 25, 2017, the moon photobombed one of our sun-watching satellites by passing directly between the satellite and the sun.
The Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, orbits Earth and watches the sun nearly 24/7 — except when another body, like the moon, gets in the way. These lunar photobombs are called transits, the generic term for when any celestial body passes in front of another.
Transits are one way we detect distant worlds. When a planet in another star system passes in front of its host star, it blocks some of the star’s light so the star appears slightly dimmer. By monitoring changes in a star’s light over time, scientists can deduce the presence of a planet, and even determine what its atmosphere is like. This method has been used to discover thousands of planets, including the TRAPPIST-1 planets.
SDO sees lunar transits about twice a year, and this one lasted about an hour with the moon covering about 89 percent of the sun at the peak of its journey across the sun’s face.
When they’re seen from Earth, we call lunar transits by another name: eclipses.
Solar eclipses are just a special kind of transit where the moon blocks all or part of our view of the sun. Since SDO’s view of the sun was only partially blocked, it saw a partial eclipse. Later this year, on Aug. 21, a total eclipse will be observable from the ground: The moon will completely block the sun’s face in some parts of the US, creating a total solar eclipse on a 70-mile-wide stretch of land, called the path of totality, that runs from Oregon to South Carolina.
Throughout the rest of North America — and even in parts of South America, Africa, Europe and Asia — the moon will partially obscure the sun, creating a partial eclipse. SDO will also witness this partial eclipse.
Total solar eclipses are incredible, cosmic coincidences: The sun is about 400 times wider than the moon, but it also happens to be 400 times farther away, so the sun and moon appear to be the same size in our sky. This allows the moon to completely block the sun when they line up just right.
Within the path of totality, the moon completely obscures the sun’s bright face, revealing the comparatively faint corona — the sun’s pearly-white outer atmosphere.
It’s essential to observe eye safety during an eclipse. You must use proper eclipse glasses or an indirect viewing method when any part of the sun’s surface is exposed, whether during the partial phases of an eclipse, or just on a regular day. If you’re in the path of totality, you may look at the eclipse ONLY during the brief moments of totality.
A total solar eclipse is one of nature’s most awe-inspiring sights, so make your plans now for August 21! You’ll also be able to see the eclipse cross the country that day through the eyes of NASA – including views of the partial eclipse from SDO – on NASA TV and at nasa.gov.
Learn more about the August eclipse — including where, when, and how to safely see it — at eclipse2017.nasa.gov and follow along on Twitter @NASASun.
In honor of our first-ever mission to the heart of the solar system, this week we’re delving into the life and times of this powerful yellow dwarf star.
1. Meet Parker
Parker Solar Probe, our first mission to go to the sun, is named after Eugene Parker, an American astrophysicist who first theorized that the sun constantly sends out a flow of particles and energy called the solar wind. This historic mission will explore one of the last regions of the solar system to be visited by a spacecraft and help scientists unlock answers to questions they’ve been pondering for more than five decades.
The sun is the center of our solar system and makes up 99.8 percent of the mass of the entire solar system. If the sun were as tall as a typical front door, Earth would be about the size of a nickel.
4. Different Spin
Since the sun is not a solid body, different parts of the sun rotate at different rates. At the equator, the sun spins once about every 25 days, but at its poles the sun rotates once on its axis every 36 Earth days.
5. Can’t Stand on It
The sun is a star and a star doesn’t have a solid surface. Rather, it’s a ball of ionized gas 92.1% hydrogen (H2) and 7.8% helium (He) held together by its own gravity.
6. Center of Attention
The sun isn’t a planet, so it doesn’t have any moons. But, the sun is orbited by eight planets, at least five dwarf planets, tens of thousands of asteroids, and hundreds of thousands to trillions of comets and icy bodies.
7. It’s Hot in There
And we mean really, really hot. The temperature at the sun’s core is about 27 million degrees Fahrenheit. However, its atmosphere, the corona, can reach temperatures of 3 million degrees. (That’s as if it got hotter the farther away you got from a fire, instead of cooler!) Parker Solar Probe will help scientists solve the mystery of why the corona’s temperature is so much higher than the surface.
8. Travel Conditions
The sun influences the entire solar system, so studying it helps us better understand the space weather that our astronauts and spacecraft travel through.
9. Life on the Sun?
Better to admire from afar. Thanks to its hot, energetic mix of gases and plasma, the sun can’t be home to living things. However, we can thank the sun for making life on Earth possible by providing the warmth and energy that supply Earth’s food chain.
Triple treat: Eclipse, comet, full moon all coming Friday night 2/10/17
Penumbral lunar eclipse
Not as spectacular — or noticeable — as a total lunar eclipse, this rather subtle phenomenon occurs when the moon moves through the outer part of Earth’s shadow (known as the penumbra), according to EarthSky.org.
The outer shadow of the Earth blocks part — but not all — of the sun’s rays from reaching the moon, making it appear slightly darker than usual.
Full “snow” moon
As required during any lunar eclipse, the moon will be full Friday night. And this month it’s nicknamed the “snow” moon.
According to the Farmers’ Almanac, full moon names date back to Native Americans in the northern and eastern U.S. Each full moon has its own name.
“The tribes kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full moon,” the almanac reports. “Their names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred.”
A few hours after the eclipse, Comet 45P, which has been visible after sunset for the past two months through binoculars and telescopes, makes its closest approach to Earth, when it will be “only” 7.4 million miles away, NASA said.
Look to the east around 3 a.m. Saturday morning, where it will be visible in the sky in the constellation Hercules. Binoculars or a telescope could be helpful. Watch for a bright blue-green “head” with a tail.
It will be visible in various points of the night sky until the end of February, according to NASA.