Heliophysics Big Year
NASA's here for us with projects for eclipse-chasers and everyday community scientists too.
Motivation. We’ve all heard it should come from within. Yes, true, yes.
Sometimes though, it’s nice to get the genesis of a motivating idea––an energy-filled and why didn’t I think of that idea—not from within but from without. With that thought, here’s my proposition: consider joining in with NASA and other community science lovers to participate in the widest array of eclipse-related volunteer science projects ever.
Heliophysics is the study of our star and how it interacts with everything in our solar system. The “Big Year” is a concept that originated with citizen scientists in the bird-watching community. During their Big Year, birders attempt to observe and study as many bird species as possible during a single calendar year. NASA is now challenging us to do the same with our sun.
The Heliophysics year begins this month (October 2023) and builds up into the big event which is the Monday, April 8, 2024 total eclipse of the sun. So now that the date is on your calendar, maybe you need something to do while you wait these long five months? I’m here to help. Below are nine NASA projects associated with the Heliophysics Big Year and some have prerequisites. Check them out. My favorite so far is the Eclipse Megamovie because scientists want us (volunteer scientists) to take pictures of the “ring of fire” on eclipse day. All images from across the country will be compiled into a movie. (See the 15-minute documentary below that shows how the 2017 “ring of fire” movie was made.) Some of the following activities include specific equipment (and training) that NASA will provide if you are chosen for a project. This is a free newsletter, so please share this list with others who’ll be interested.
The Sungrazer Project: Discover and report previously unknown moments.
Aurorasaurus: Did you see the aurora? Join in a worldwide reporting system to help NASA understand how the sun affects Earth.
HamSCI: Are you a Ham radio operator? Help NASA better understand Earth’s ionosphere.
Citizen CATE 2024: Help study structures and changes in the sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona, by taking images of the total eclipse in polarized light.
DEB Initiative: With a small team, capture telescope images of the total eclipse to help document the moment-by-moment appearance of the sun and its corona.
Eclipse Megamovie: Use a DSLR camera to record dynamics in the solar corona during the total eclipse, or help analyze the images afterward.
Eclipse Soundscapes: How does wildlife respond to a solar eclipse? Record sounds before, during, and after an eclipse to find out.
Sun Sketcher: Use your phone to help measure the exact shape and size of the Sun by photographing an eclipse phenomenon called Baily’s Beads.
Chasing Totality: Making the 2017 Eclipse Megamovie. Source: NASA.
Do you want to travel for the eclipse?
This CNN story gives background on the April 8 eclipse and has a graphic showing the line of travel.
Last Saturday, some in the U.S. witnessed an annular eclipse. What is the difference between a total eclipse and an annular eclipse?
A solar eclipse happens when the moon journeys between Earth and the sun, blocking the view along a small path of Earth of some or all of the sun's face as it passes. An annular solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between Earth and the sun at a time when the moon is at or close to its farthest point from our planet. It does not completely obscure the face of the sun, unlike in a total solar eclipse.
Because the moon is farther than usual from Earth during an annular solar eclipse, the moon will not completely obscure the sun, instead looking like a dark disk superimposed atop the sun's larger, bright face in the sky. As a result, the eclipse will momentarily look like a ring of fire surrounding the dark disc of the moon.
Everything under the sun?
The science projects have varied wide and far this year as I’ve written about practically everything under the sun. Don’t believe it? Well, take a minute to check out this Index of Subjects in the Everyday Scientist. No, I haven’t gotten to everything yet, still working, working, working. See you soon as I write next about an amazing organization I’ve discovered, Thriving Earth Exchange.
Air quality and water quality. I hear these issues over and over as THE top two community-level environmental concerns. In fact, a Chattahoochee Riverkeeper (CRK) water quality project on the Westside’s Procter Creek was the single activity that got me interested in all things community science last November. Here it is almost November again, and I want to share three upcoming CRK events. If you live around Atlanta, plan to attend one or all. Preregistration is needed because attendance is limited.
CRK Headwaters River Rendezvous. Conduct water sampling, track pollution around Lake Lanier. Nov. 4.
CRK Southside River Rendezvous. Explore Atlanta’s three rivers – the Chattahoochee, the Flint, and the South River. You’ll discover some of the Southside’s hidden freshwater features, learn how to collect water samples and watch scientists perform water quality testing. Nov. 11.
CRK Westside River Rendezvous. Help track pollution in the waterways of historic west Atlanta while learning about the Westside’s Proctor, Utoy, and and Sandy Creeks. Nov. 18.
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