The first total solar eclipse to sweep the contiguous United States in nearly a century is being viewed by scientists as an opportunity to apply the latest tools of technological inquiry to an age-old phenomenon, to learn more about the universe in which we live.
Boulder researchers will make a significant contribution to the work that will be done in the critical hour and 40 minutes that the moon’s umbral shadow tracks a swift course from coast to coast, sparking wonder in the eyes of those in its path — while providing a rare opportunity to those devoted to unraveling the mysteries of the fiery engine at the core of our solar system.
Dan Seaton is a solar physicist working as a research associate in the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, a partnership of the University of Colorado and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
He’s working in concert with Boulder’s Southwest Research Institute to chase the eclipse with two NASA WB-57 research jets. Twin telescopes placed on the nose of each aircraft are expected to yield the best-ever, high-frequency images of the solar corona, to better understand why its atmosphere is so much hotter than the sun’s surface.
The aircraft will be chasing the eclipse at an altitude of 50,000 feet over Missouri, Illinois and Tennessee, recording 30 high-definition visible and infrared images each second.
“The corona is a million or more…