Eerie Smiley Face Spotted on Surface of Sun After Solar Eclipse

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The Sun

A total solar eclipse presents a rare opportunity to observe the corona and chromosphere, the 2 outer near layers of the sun’due south temper. Under normal circumstances, the bright yellowish surface of the dominicus, called the photosphere, is the only feature we tin observe. But during an eclipse, the moon blocks out that intense calorie-free, allowing scientists to observe the much dimmer solar atmosphere.

Our 2017 eclipse brochure has a composite image of the sun on the back. The brochure identifies cardinal features in the sunday’s atmosphere that you may observe during totality.

What is the Corona?

The corona is the outer temper of the sun. It is fabricated of tenuous gases and is normally hiding in plain sight, overwhelmed by the bright light of the sunday’s photosphere. When the moon blocks the sun’southward face during a full solar eclipse, the corona is revealed as a pearly-white halo effectually the sun. To study the corona, scientists use special instruments called coronagraphs, which mimic eclipses by using solid disks to block the sun’south face. During a natural total eclipse, still, lower parts of the corona can be seen in a way that still cannot be completely replicated by current technology.

Image Credit: Luc Viatour

Eclipse observations are of import for understanding why the sun’s atmosphere is 1 million degrees hotter than its surface, as well equally the process by which the sun sends out a constant stream of solar material and radiation, which cause changes in the nature of space and may bear upon spacecraft, communications systems, and orbiting astronauts.

What Is the Chromosphere?

The chromosphere is a sparse layer of the sunday’s atmosphere that lies just beneath the corona, and virtually 3,100 miles (5,000 km) higher up the photosphere. It is only visible during total solar eclipses or with sophisticated telescopes. The discussion comes from chromo—or “color”—for the way this layer appears during eclipses: a thin, crimson ring around the border of the sun, in contrast with the darkened moon and pearly-white corona.

Observing the Eclipse from Space

Several NASA missions will capture observations of the sun from space during the 2017 eclipse. Most of the imagery, with the exception of that from the Solar Dynamics Observatory, will not be available in real time, but will be shared publicly within a few days after the eclipse.

NASA solar missions that will discover the moon as it passes in forepart of the lord’s day


Hinode mission thumbnail

Hinode’south X-ray telescope, the XRT is optimal for viewing the hot corona, and these images tin provide context images for basis-based eclipse observations. Eclipse scientists correlate the 2 sets of observations to determine where the emissions seen from the ground originate from the sun itself. One study will look at 10-ray jets — explosions that erupt from the lord’s day’south surface, expelling hot gas into the corona — on the limb to make up one’s mind where they occur more commonly. This research is all-time accomplished when we also accept a view of the lower corona that tin exist seen simply during a full solar eclipse.


Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO

SDO mission thumbnail

Orbiting in space, NASA’due south SDO mission will see a partial lunar transit. The moon will graze SDO’southward view of the sun – obscuring just a small portion of the star – from 3:27 pm EDT and 3:55 pm EDT.
Throughout August 21, 2017, SDO volition keep a constant eye on the sun – equally information technology has done 24/7 since it launched in 2010. SDO views the dominicus in a handful of wavelengths that let it observe material on the sun in different temperatures. Each wavelength highlights material in unlike layers on the sun’s surface and in its atmosphere, the corona.
Scientists volition be able to compare SDO imagery of the corona to images captured from the ground. During a total eclipse, the lower parts of the sun’s atmosphere, or corona, can be seen in a way that cannot completely be replicated by electric current homo-fabricated instruments. The combination of space-based and footing-based observations together create a more comprehensive picture than either can do alone.


Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS

IRIS mission tumbnail

Due to its orbit in space, IRIS will witness the moon pass in forepart of the dominicus several times on Aug. 21, 2017 – each fourth dimension for nearly 15 minutes. During the transits, IRIS will perform calibrations on its instruments.
During the remainder of the time IRIS will focus on coordination with ground-based efforts observing the eclipse. The science obtained from the rare view from the ground tin can exist amplified by IRIS’s space-based observations of the sun’s lower atmosphere – the chromosphere – too as the loops of solar material, called prominences, visible over the sun’s limbs. IRIS will be sensitive to solar textile at temperatures that cannot be seen from the ground, for example, the material in the lower atmosphere at the interface between the chromosphere and corona, which is around 100,000 Chiliad.
In add-on, IRIS will obtain a scan of the whole limb which involves most 50 different pointings. The resulting mosaic image will provide a unique epitome of the sun’s horizon at very high resolution.


NASA missions that will detect the solar corona but will non run into the eclipse:

ESA/NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO

SOHO mission tumbnail

Fifty-fifty though it won’t see the moon laissez passer in front of the dominicus, one of SOHO’s key musical instrument suites, its coronagraphs, essentially create artificial eclipses. Humans first recorded observations of the highly structured solar atmosphere, the corona, are associated with eclipses: During a total eclipse, the much dimmer corona all of a sudden becomes visible, often showing a highly structured corona with solar material streaming away from the sun. In guild to replicate that perspective, scientists congenital coronagraphs, which use a deejay to mimic the moon and obscure the sun. SOHO’southward coronograph will be capturing observations on Aug. 21, which can be used with ground-based observations to provide deeper insight into the processes driving the sun’due south temper.


Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO

STEREO mission thumbnail

STEREO currently views the dominicus from the far side, and then it, too, will not run across a lunar transit on Aug. 21. However, it will also apply a coronagraph to observe the corona. Scientists brand use of these coronagraph images and other STEREO data to amend sympathise what drives giant eruptions on the sun called coronal mass ejections. These eruptions can transport solar material and energy toward Earth, which can — when intense — bear upon our satellites and interfere with radio communications. STEREO’s constant artificial eclipse helps us keep an eye on such eruptions, and provides situational awareness we need on Earth to mitigate such effects.
The observations STEREO gathers during the eclipse can likewise be used to round out observations of the solar atmosphere taken from the ground and thus create a robust, more three-dimensional picture of the sun’southward dynamic corona.


Futurity NASA Missions

Parker Solar Probe

Parker Solar Probe mission thumbnail

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe
will launch in 2018 to wing right into the dominicus’s temper to provide our first-e’er directly observations of the corona.

Observing the Eclipse from the Footing

NASA is funding eleven studies that span a range of disciplines, using the total solar eclipse to detect the dominicus, test new instruments, and even leverage the skills of denizen scientists to expand our understanding of the sun-Earth organisation. Of those eleven, half dozen are sunday-focused. Those studies are listed below, followed by the name of the principal investigator and their domicile institution.

  • 2 NASA WB-57 planes will take measurements of the solar corona in visible and infrared calorie-free in order to meliorate understand how free energy moves throughout the sun’s atmosphere. (Amir Caspi, Southwest Inquiry Institute)
  • Edifice on the work of Citizen CATE, in which citizen scientists can assistance gather imagery of the eclipse from wherever they are, scientists will gather additional imagery of the eclipse from two sites — Tetonia, Idaho and Carbondale, Illinois. The experiment volition map the 2-dimensional electron distribution in the inner solar corona, providing new input for models that address the question of why the lord’s day’s atmosphere, the corona, is so much hotter than its surface. (Padma Yanamandra-Fisher, Infinite Scientific discipline Institute)
  • Two experiments from a mountaintop near Casper, Wyoming, scientists will gather images of the eclipse in a wide range of lite wavelengths to map the magnetic field in the dominicus’due south corona, which can help meliorate models that show when the sun might erupt with a solar flare or coronal mass ejection. (Paul Bryans, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research) (Philip Judge, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research)
  • During the total solar eclipse, NASA scientists will peer into the inner corona equally they examination an improved instrument that helps them measure out polarized low-cal, to study electrons in the corona. This experiment expands on their work from the 2016 total eclipse in Indonesia. (Nat Gopalswamy, NASA Goddard)

A team of scientists spread across four states during the total solar eclipse volition use spectrometers, which analyze the lite emitted from different ionized elements in the corona, likewise as specialized filters to probe the physics of the sun’s outer atmosphere. (Shadia Habbal, Academy of Hawaii)

  • NASA funded a team to train volunteers to collect images of the eclipse for the Citizen Continental-America Telescopic Eclipse (CATE)
    Experiment to study the dynamics of the inner solar corona from over 68 sites on the path of totality.