On Aug. 21, a total solar eclipse will sweep across the entire continental United States, and North America will get a taste of at least a partial eclipse. Perhaps many are already looking for safe eclipse glasses or mapping out their viewing activities for the event.
NASA offers a unique proposition: be a citizen scientist for a day.
The U.S. space agency invites eclipse viewers around the county to take part in its nationwide science experiment where they will collect cloud and air temperature data, and then report it through their smartphones.
The data will go to an interactive map under the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Program. The free GLOBE Observer app will allow spectators to document their eclipse observations, using only their phone and a thermometer, wherever they are along path of the eclipse.
“No matter where you are in North America, whether it’s cloudy, clear or rainy, NASA wants as many people as possible to help with this citizen science project,” said project deputy coordinator Kristen Weaver in a statement, adding they want to inspire many to become eclipse scientists.
According to the instructional video narrator, life and environmental conditions react when the planet goes dark for a couple of minutes during the eclipse. In the eclipse’s path, temperatures as well as clouds can quickly change.
The app can be downloaded here, and it will provide instructions on how to make eclipse observations once you log in.
Preparations For The Total Solar Eclipse
NASA is keen to gather a plethora of data from volunteer citizen scientists, but the initiative is also deemed a way to inspire participation in a global scientific endeavor. For instance, the activity will democratize scientific observation by having citizens explore changes in their environment on their own.
The total solar eclipse will cross the country from Oregon to South Carolina over a 1.5 hour period, and 14 U.S. states will undergo night-like darkness for about two minutes midday. The phenomenon enters the United States at 10:15 a.m. PDT off Oregon’s coast and leaves it at around 2:50 p.m. EDT in South Carolina.
Total solar eclipses rarely occur due to a number of reasons, from the Earth’s tilt to the moon’s inclined orbit.
At any rate, there are alternate ways to watch the eclipse if one isn’t inside the path of totality or not keen on joining the huge crowds outside.
These include the Eclipse Megamovie Project that pieces together time-stamped images from the public, as well as the live eclipse broadcast on NASA TV, various news stations, and online streaming via services such as YouTube.