By Katie Roengk, The Ranger
A version of this article was initially published in the May, 2017 issue of Wind River Country Magazine.
You’re a solar scientist. You have 2.5 minutes to get as many good total eclipse photographs as you can to study every minute detail of the sun’s corona. But there’s so much more information you need. There must be a better way!
Area residents and eclipse visitors are invited to join in a first-of-its-kind citizen science project fathering scientifically valuable data from the total solar eclipse on August. 21.
Google has teamed up with the University of California, Berkeley to create an Eclipse MegaMovie using photographs taken along the path of totality, of which nearly all of Wind River Country will be within, during the big event.
Once all of the photographs taken across the breadth of the U.S. are collected, project organizers will combine the images to create 90 minutes worth of eclipse data—and that will be the Eclipse MegaMovie.
The end product will provide scientists with information about the sun’s corona. The corona is the sun’s outer atmosphere, which is impossible to see with the sun’s full light but visible during a total eclipse with the moon blocks the bright core of the sun. It will appear as “a pearly white crown surrounding the sun,” NASA says, with characteristics like streamers, plumes and loops—even a “diamond ring.”
“These features change from eclipse to eclipse and the overall shape of the corona changes with the (11 year) sunspot cycle,” NASA’s website states. “However, during the few fleeting minutes of totality few, if any, changes are seen in these coronal features.”
Telescopes currently in space, such as STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory) and SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) take regular photographs of the sun but are unable to visualize much of the corona. The photos taken during the August 21 eclipse will help fill out the information.
Corona study allows us to improve our knowledge of the sun’s influence on the Earth’s upper atmosphere. According to Google’s website, “By stitching together thousands of real-time images taken along the path of 2017 total solar eclipse, we will have a unique treasure-trove of information on how the corona changes over time. Radio-wave studies have allowed us to closely observe very rapid variations of the corona, but now we expect to study such processes directly using visible light and thus enrich our knowledge of the sun’s dynamic atmosphere considerably.”
Data from the project will also be made available publicly and help scientists around the globe study the corona for years to come.
“Furthermore, we will have an opportunity to repeat this experiment when another total eclipse crosses the U.S. in 2014. This [MegaMovie project] will show how the sun changes over a few hours, but also how it’s different after a period of seven years,” states the website.
About 1,500 volunteers are needed for a successful Eclipse MegaMovie. Any photographer—amateur or professional—is encouraged to participate. Basic equipment necessary includes a digital single lens reflex camera with a telephoto or zoom lens with a focal length of at least 300 millimeters, a stable and level tripod, and the ability to identify GPS coordinates and time to the nearest second.
Participants will receive training and submit a practice image before the eclipse. Qualifying photographers will receive pins that designate them as official project members. Their names will also be included in the credits of the final Eclipse MegaMovie.
Cell phone photos will be accepted and shared to allow more citizens to appreciate the science of an eclipse, although they will not be part of the movie.
For more information, visit EclipseMega.Movie. Photographers will find the FAQ at the bottom of the page very helpful and specific. To participate, log in with a Google account, select a location, and identify your equipment. Select “apply,” then fill out an application.