Idaho Citizen Scientists Prepare For Solar Eclipse Experiment

Jun 16, 2017

Tens of thousands of people will watch the total solar eclipse in Idaho on August 21, and some of them will be taking part in a citizen science experiment.

The Citizen Continental-America Telescope Eclipse Experiment, or CATE for short, is a project by the National Solar Observatory. Using special telescopes, the plan is to record the eclipse at more than 68 different sites, including three in Idaho.

Boise State University physics professor Brian Jackson says most of the people involved are students or amateur astronomers.

“This is a citizen science project. It’s going to involve dozens and dozens of citizens across the country and so it’s a really unique opportunity for folks to get involved in active research,” Jackson says.

The goal is to study the outermost layers of the sun’s atmosphere, called the corona.

"We’re still really trying to understand the corona and the eclipse gives us a really nice opportunity to do that because during the eclipse the rest of the sun is blocked out and so the corona comes popping out and it’s very easy to see during the total eclipse,” says Jackson.

The experiment will have three sites in Idaho: Weiser, Garden Valley and Stanley. When it’s all over, the Citizen CATE project will stitch the two-minute videos together into a 90-minute eclipse film and put it online.

Jackson says this Sunday, volunteers will host a practice observation with the special telescopes at Boise State. At noon, they will invite the public to take a peek through a telescope at the sun, and hand out free eclipse-watching eyeglasses north of the Multi-Purpose Classroom Building.

Watch NASA.gov's video of the solar total eclipse in Australia in 2012:

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