S u m m a r y :
August 21 solar eclipse will hide the sun from us just enough for scientists to see some of its unseen parts!
Light will be switched off to unveil bright stars during the day, a total solar eclipse greeting the inhabitants of the Earth as the moon imposes itself between us and the sun. The much-awaited, imminent event to happen on August 21 will enlighten scientists while pouring darkness onto the sky.
Seeing the Sun Like Never Before!
Some people rejoice at a solar eclipse, given the fantastic show unravelling before human eyes. Others find in it a spiritual, humbling experience. As for scientists, they are looking forward to unlocking some of the secrets of the universe: according to them, as the moon covers the sun, questions pertaining to the latter are answered. This is so because a large chunk of space around the sun becomes visible only during a total eclipse.
Unveiling Sun’s Inner Corona
This portion of space unveiled during an eclipse is called the inner corona, an area in the sun’s atmosphere extending from its surface into 2.5 solar radii. It is the spot where a number of phenomena originate: from solar winds to coronal mass ejections.
The inner corona is normally not seen because of a combination of factors. Scientists will usually study the outer corona with telescopes equipped with a disk known as an occulter to keep out too much brightness from the sun. This disk has to be of the right size for the information recorded to be reliable. For instance, if it is of the same size as the sun in the telecope’s perspective, any slow movement would bring in bright solar photons that would tamper with the data. The occulter should also not be too small because this would make sunlight bend into the camera. To avoid these problems, telescopes use occulters that are relatively big, and both the apparatus and data are, thus, protected. However, this also prevents the inner corona to be viewed. All problems that can be solved by the moon.
The Moon, An Eye-Opener
Our natural satellite is located at a certain distance from us, beyond our atmosphere. More importantly, it appears to be of a size that adequately blocks out the solar disk, such that the inner corona is not obstructed. The ideal ‘occulter’.
Why is August 21 Solar Eclipse Different?
The August 21 eclipse is even more special than your normal solar eclipse because the moment when the light of the sun is completely blocked out (when it will be pitch dark; totality) will be witnessed from solid ground for over an hour. Eclipses happen quite often but totality often falls on oceans, and not so much on land. However, the upcoming eclipse will be having 93 minutes of totality throughout land, allowing scientists a greater amount of time to observe the astronomical event.
So, what are you waiting for, start the countdown now!