solar eclipse, citizen science projects

Help Scientists Study the Solar Eclipse with Citizen Science Projects

Read Time: 3 minutes

As you may already know, North America, as well as some parts of South America, Africa and Europe, will get to see a solar eclipse on August 21. A portion of the United States will even be able to see a total solar eclipse, in which the moon completely covers the sun and its tenuous atmosphere.

This total eclipse, which will be visible to people from Lincoln Beach, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina, will be the first total eclipse visible from the continental United States in 38 years.

Those who can see the eclipse will be able to do more than just watch it too. Scientists are looking for citizens – from people knowledgeable about science to novices – to help them conduct various experiments during the eclipse.

Twitter Chat

If you want to learn more about the citizen scientist projects going on during the solar eclipse, head to Twitter on Thursday, August 17th at 4pm EST. There you can participate in a discussion about the projects, ask questions and learn more about the research from the scientists themselves. Just use the hashtag #CitSciChat to get involved. Caren Cooper, the moderator of #CitSciChat, regularly holds these Citizen Science Twitter Chats to help spread the word about current projects. You can follow Caren @CoopSciScoop and the event sponsor, SciStarter @SciStarter.

 Until then, here’s a run-down of some of the citizen science projects looking for help from during the solar eclipse.

Citizen Science Projects

1. Trundownse Megamovie Project

This effort, headed up by Google’s Making and Science Team and the University of California, Berkley’s Multiverse Team, involves volunteer photographers, amateur astronomers and other volunteers in the path of totality – the areas where the total eclipse is visible.

Participants will take pictures of the eclipse. After the event, all of the images will be stitched together to create a “megamovie.” The end product will be available to the public and to scientists. To participate, just head to the project’s website and sign up.

2. The CATE Experiment

The CATE Experiment (Citizen Continental-America Telescopic Eclipse Experiment) enlists citizens, schools and other volunteers to capture images of the sun’s outer atmosphere, which is called the corona. Normally, the sun’s light obscures the corona, but the eclipse will provide an opportunity to observe it.

The project distributed 68 telescopes and other equipment to participants and has been encouraging them to practice using it before the big event. Each site will take over 1000 images to create 90 minutes of continuous footage.

3. GLOBE Observer

The GLOBE Program is encouraging citizens to help them collect data about the changes to the earth’s atmosphere caused by the eclipse. Contributors will measure air and surface temperature as well as observe cloud cover during the eclipse, which will be added to a database.

To participate, download the GLOBE Observer app, which you will use to report your data. If you’re measuring temperature, you’ll also need a thermometer. You can take part whether you’re in the path of totality or not.

4. HamSCI

The HamSCI experiment is seeking amateur radio operators to help gather data about the ionosphere during the eclipse. The ionosphere is a thin layer of the earth’s atmosphere that’s created when solar and cosmic radiation strips molecules in the atmosphere of their negative electrons. The strength of this layer varies with the amount of sunlight present.

HamSCI is comprised of several sub-projects designed to provide comprehensive, widely distributed data. Participants can tune into an operating event called the Solar Eclipse QSO Party as well as set up a Reverse Beacon Network Receiver, take HF frequency measurements, record HF spectra, listen to AM broadcast stations or use Very Low Frequency (VLF) and Low Frequency (LF) bands.

5. Life Responds

Animal and plant have been observed reacting to solar eclipses. For example, people have noticed that birds stop signing and that squirrels go into their dens. The Life Responds project is attempting to gather more comprehensive data on this phenomenon.

Researchers invite citizens to observe how life responds to the solar eclipse by noting how they act before, during and after the event. To participate, you just have to download the iNaturalist app, sign up to join the project and practice making observations. Then choose a location and make observations before, during and after the eclipse.

Observing the Eclipse

The upcoming total solar eclipse is a rare event that’s sparking interest not only from scientists but also from people from all walks of life. These citizen science projects provide an opportunity for people to get involved in the scientific process and make important contributions to our understanding of our world.

Even if you can’t participate in one of the projects, you can join in the conversation by using the #CitSciChat hashtag on Twitter. You can also, of course, go out and enjoy the eclipse when it occurs on the 21st. Just be sure you know how to observe it safely and take the proper safety precautions, such as using the right protective eyewear. And plan ahead, so that you don’t miss this remarkable event.

Category: Space

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Article by: Megan Ray Nichols

Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance science writer and science enthusiast. Her favorite subjects include astronomy and the environment. She encourages discussions in these fields. Megan is also a regular contributor to Datafloq, The Energy Collective, and David Renke's World of Space. When she isn't writing, Megan loves watching movies, hiking and stargazing. Love what you're reading on Schooled By Science? Don't forget to subscribe today!