This summer, a solar eclipse unlike anything we’ve seen in over 100 years is going to be crossing North America and people are a little excited about it. This is a total eclipse (yes, like the song) which means the moon will completely cover the sun (partial eclipses are far more common). The phenomenon will travel on a trajectory that covers 12 states and the rest of North America (yes, that means us in Canada) will see a partial eclipse. So everybody mark your calendars for August 21st.
Along the eclipse path, people are getting pretty hyped about the whole thing. Hotels are completely booked up for the time with astronomers, space enthusiasts and just normal people traveling for the once-in-a-lifetime sight. Also crazy excited? Google. They’ve teamed up with Berkeley to start a ‘citizen science project’ to get as many images and as much data as possible about the event.
Google is asking anyone in the path of totality to sign up online and contribute photos and as much information as they can to the project. They want to string the photos together to create a continuous view of the eclipse across the United States.
This isn’t just a cool art project either. One of the things astronomers love about solar eclipses is that blocking the direct light from the sun allows them to view the corona (the outer atmosphere). There is a lot we don’t know about it since it’s so hard for us to study with that bright light in our eyes. The images from Google’s project will be made publicly available and allow scientists world wide to study that elusive attribute of the sun.
Cooler still, there’s going to be another total eclipse crossing the States in 2024 when Google intends to repeat the project so we can study how the sun changes over time. This is a huge opportunity for some great scientific discoveries. In the age of the internet, a global collaboration like this is one of the most logical ways to get the most data. Once again, Google proves it’s the smartest of us all.
They’ve also created a simulator where you can take a look at what the total eclipse will look like at different points along its trajectory. Unfortunately, the simulator is restricted to the United States so we can’t see what it will look for from Canada. Guess that means we’re just going to have to step outside and see it for ourselves. Check out this website to find out what time to look up to the sky.
And now, just because it’s what we’re all thinking every time we hear ‘total eclipse’: