Are you a big fan of science and the galaxy? Are you impressed with space events? Don’t you ever wonder how is it possible for the sun and the moon to coincide and meet at the same time? It is like space and time conspiring in favor of humanity, to make us see such an incredible spectacle: The exact moment when the moon sets right in front of the sun.

Millions of people around the world are hoping to see what’s coming on August 21. Sadly, not everyone will do it in person. Some will only see it as a partial eclipse. But there will always be the opportunity to watch it on television or social media.

Image Credit: Colleen Pinski / National Geographic
Image Credit: Colleen Pinski / National Geographic

But the U.S., fortunately, will have a chance to witness such an incredible performance from the ground. For a short time, the shadow of the moon will travel from one point to another: passing over Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. An extensive line all over the country drawn by coincidence.

But, what do you need to know when this occurs?

First of all, you can’t just stand there waiting for the light to damage your eyes. You need to run now and search for special glasses, cause it is possible to hurt yourself without the right protection.

Remember it could be hazardous. In the end, you will still be staring directly at the sun.

And, no. Those cheap eclipse viewers or unsafe sunglasses won’t work at all. If you consider yourself a real fan, it’s better for you to go and find the right kind of viewers.

Make sure that your eclipse glasses are safe before watching the solar eclipse. Image Credit: Evan Zucker
Make sure that your eclipse glasses are safe for watching the solar eclipse. Image Credit: Evan Zucker

Don’t you know where to find them and exactly what particular pair of glasses you should have? Well, there are specific models coming from real, trusted manufacturers and certificated sellers. Make sure they follow the ISO 12312-2 international standard. If you’re interested, the you can get some of them from the American Astronomical Society.

It represents a unique opportunity for science

This is a very special eclipse because it is a “total eclipse.” An eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, interposing and affecting the light coming from the big star. Unlike this one, a partial eclipse occurs when the moon’s apparent diameter is shorter than the Sun’s. But this one will look larger, blocking the sunlight and making the day a little bit darker.

From Oregon to South Carolina, the Moon’s shadow will explore a not-so-long distance of 70 miles (113 kilometers). And, of course, it will be recorded. But not only from the news on the ground, but also by sky-watchers. Scientists will jump aboard a Gulfstream V jet in Tennesse – a research aircraft owned by the National Science Foundation – and follow it from the start to the end. They will see what’s known as the corona, which it’s the sun’s bright outer atmosphere.

Specifically, in Kentucky, they will have only a short time of four minutes to record the ghost of the missing sun. That will be the only shot they’ll have for years – a very long time. It won’t happen again until the next solar eclipse, which will occur in 2024.

Trajectory of the Great American Eclipse. Image Credit: Great American Eclipse
The trajectory of the Great American Eclipse. Image Credit: Great American Eclipse

Generated by the sun’s magnetic-field lines, the complex structure of the corona glows and burns with incredible power, of 6.29 million degrees Fahrenheit (3.49 million degrees Celsius or 3.5 million degrees Kelvin). And on July 25, this magnetic field shape was modeled by astronomers, with dimensions from the National Solar Observatory Integrated Synoptic Program (NSO/NISP).

These measurements represent one solar rotation, 27.2753 Earth days, before the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse.

“Since we are exactly one solar rotation away from the solar eclipse, we’re able to use today’s observations to predict the structure of the corona on Aug. 21st,” told in the statement an astronomer from the NSO, Gordon Petrie. “The corona is not likely to change too much between now and the eclipse, unless we get lucky and a large active region appears!”

It’s mysterious why the corona is still hotter than the visible part of the sun’s, the photosphere. And Jenna Samra is working to know the exact reason.

“The thing that makes me nervous is we only have those four minutes,” said this applied physics graduate student at Harvard University. “All this work for years and then we’d have to wait for the next eclipse.” She thinks “eclipses are really ideal times to do this science.”

Along with Samra, other physicists are also investigating this complex corona at the same University. “We’re looking to identify emission lines in the corona in the near infrared region,” said Edward E. DeLuca, a solar physicist working at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Massachusetts. He’s too one of Samra’s adviser.

Sources: CNET Seeker, The Washington Post