Technology What Solar Eclipses Have Taught Us About the Universe

14:27  12 august  2017
14:27  12 august  2017 Source:   Time

Canadian eclipse chasers ready for Monday's event

  Canadian eclipse chasers ready for Monday's event Joe Carr's most memorable total solar eclipse had ties to former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. He stayed in a tent in the Sahara Desert supplied by Gadhafi to house dedicated eclipse chasers. He stayed in a tent in the Sahara Desert supplied by Gadhafi to house dedicated eclipse chasers.

What 4,000 Years of Solar Eclipses Taught Us About the Universe . For millennia, humans have used solar eclipses to learn about the universe . We are still learning. More From Solar Eclipse 2017. 12 articles. What We Will Learn During August's Solar Eclipse .

Total solar eclipses like the one that will cross the US on August 21 have taught us about how the universe works. 21 have captured the attention of astronomers throughout history — and have often led to advances in our understanding of how the universe works.

A total solar eclipse can be seen in Svalbard, Longyearbyen, Norway, on March 20, 2015. A partial eclipse of varying degrees is visible, depending on weather conditions, across most of Europe, northern Africa, northwest Asia and the Middle East, before finishing its show close to the North Pole. AFP PHOTO / NTB SCANPIX / JON OLAV NESVOLD +++ NORWAY OUT (Photo credit should read JON OLAV NESVOLD/AFP/Getty Images) © JON OLAV NESVOLD—AFP/Getty Images A total solar eclipse can be seen in Svalbard, Longyearbyen, Norway, on March 20, 2015. A partial eclipse of varying degrees is visible, depending on weather conditions, across most of Europe, northern Africa, northwest Asia and the Middle East, before finishing its show close to the North Pole. AFP PHOTO / NTB SCANPIX / JON OLAV NESVOLD +++ NORWAY OUT (Photo credit should read JON OLAV NESVOLD/AFP/Getty Images) Total solar eclipses like the one that will cross the U.S. on Aug. 21 have captured the attention of astronomers throughout history — and have often led to advances in our understanding of how the universe works.

The Scientific Benefits Of Total Solar Eclipses

  The Scientific Benefits Of Total Solar Eclipses Solar eclipses occur when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun so that it blocks part or all of the sunlight as viewed from a particular location on our planet. Earth is the only planet in the solar system where this can happen in this way. This is because of the moon’s size and its relative distance from the sun – when viewed from the Earth, it can identically cover the bright solar disc to reveal the tenuous, wispy outer atmosphere of the star (called the solar corona).An eclipse does not happen every time the moon travels around the Earth.

Total solar eclipses like the one that will cross the US on August 21 have taught us about how the universe works. 21 have captured the attention of astronomers throughout history — and have often led to advances in our understanding of how the universe works.

Links about solar eclipses . Other myths about the Sun. Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store! Cool It! is the new card game from the Union of Concerned Scientists that teaches kids about the choices we have when it comes to climate change—and how policy and technology decisions

Astronomers have been studying solar eclipses for centuries. In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe and his apprentice German astronomer Johannes Kepler studied eclipses to try to arrive at a rough estimate of the moon’s diameter.

In the 19th century, eclipse observations got even more interesting, thanks in large part to advances in scientific instruments like telescopes and spectrometers, devices that let scientists analyze the chemistry of stars and distant planets. In 1868, French astronomer Jules Janssen and English astronomer Norman Lockyer were observing separate solar eclipses when they discovered a new element, which they named helios, after the Greek word for “sun.” Today, it’s known as helium.

How Blind Astronomers Will Observe the Solar Eclipse

  How Blind Astronomers Will Observe the Solar Eclipse Like millions of other people, Wanda Diaz Merced plans to observe the August 21 total solar eclipse, when the moon’s shadow will sweep across the sun and, for a few brief moments, coat parts of the United States in darkness.  Diaz Merced, an astrophysicist, is blind, with just 3 percent of peripheral vision in her right eye, and none in her left. She has been working with a team at Harvard University to develop a program that will convert sunlight into sound, allowing her to hear the solar eclipse. The sound will be generated in real time, changing as the dark silhouette of the moon appears over the face of the bright sun, blocking its light.

Total solar eclipses like the one that will cross the U . S . on Aug. 21 have captured the attention of astronomers throughout history — and have often led to advances in our understanding of how the universe works.

This is a diagram of a typical solar eclipse . During a total solar eclipse , the umbra reaches the Earth. During an annular eclipse , it does not. Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store! Cool It! is the new card game from the Union of Concerned Scientists that teaches kids about the choices we have

During an eclipse in 1879, American astronomer Charles Augustus Young and Scotland-born astronomer William Harkness both thought they had discovered another new element. But they had actually observed exceptionally hot iron in the sun’s corona, the sun’s outer atmosphere. This was the first indication that the corona is millions of degrees hotter than the sun’s surface, a mystery that puzzles astronomers to this day.

Perhaps the most interesting eclipse-based discovery came in 1919. Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity was still being met with skepticism. Under this theory, big gravitational masses like stars and planets warp the fabric of space-time, bending light as it travels through the universe. Einstein didn’t have a way of proving it, but luckily, Sir Frank Watson Dyson, the Astronomer Royal of Britain at the time, a senior post in the Royal Households of the U.K., came up with a solution. He plotted the positions of stars that would be near the sun’s limb, or edge, before a solar eclipse, then measured their positions again during the eclipse. He found that the stars’ positions had changed. The only explanation was that the mass of the sun was bending space-time and curving the stars’ light. They looked to be in different positions, but it was really an effect of the sun’s mass. It was proof Einstein was right.

So when you watch the eclipse on Aug. 21, which will be visible in parts of 14 states as a total solar solar eclipse and in the rest of the country as a partial solar eclipse, it’s a good moment to remember the cosmic event’s history of illuminating our place in space.

Amy Shira Teitel is a spaceflight historian who will co-host TIME’s livestream of the solar eclipse on Aug. 21

This article was originally published on TIME.com

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