Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Astronomer Champions The Study Of Solar Eclipses In The Modern Era

Date:
June 19, 2009
Source:
California Institute of Technology
Summary:
Championing the modern-day use of solar eclipses to solve a set of modern problems is the goal of a review article written by Jay Pasachoff, visiting associate at the California Institute of Technology and Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy at Williams College. The review is the cover story of the June 11 issue of Nature, as part of its coverage of the International Year of Astronomy.

This week's issue of Nature features solar eclipse research -- and an image of an eclipse -- on its cover.
Credit: Nature

Championing the modern-day use of solar eclipses to solve a set of modern problems is the goal of a review article written by Jay Pasachoff, visiting associate at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy at Williams College. The review is the cover story of the June 11 issue of Nature, as part of its coverage of the International Year of Astronomy.

Pasachoff's review article describes the history of eclipse discoveries, as well as current themes in eclipse research. "In the article, I try to show how there is still a vital role for eclipses in the range of observations we want to make of the sun," he says.

While space-based telescopes provide "wonderful" data for astronomers to examine, there are still observations that are "inaccessible from space," Pasachoff points out. "[I]t appears that for decades ground-based capabilities will still allow unique observations to be made from Earth rather than from space," he writes in his review.

Indeed, viewing an eclipse from the ground provides "the flexibility to use the latest equipment and to take advantage of new theoretical ideas to frame observations," he notes.

Despite the novelty of these approaches, Pasachoff says, "Many people still have an old-fashioned view of eclipses going back to the discovery of helium or the use of the eclipse 90 years ago this month for verifying Einstein's general theory of relativity. But those are old problems. These days there are a whole series of new questions and new methods that we can apply at eclipses."

Scientists will get their chance to ask those questions and use those methods next month, Pasachoff says, during what will be the longest solar eclipse in the 21st century. The upcoming total eclipse—which will be visible in China and India on July 22 for almost six minutes, "an unusually long time for a totality"—will allow Pasachoff's team, as well as many other teams of scientists, to make important observations that are expected to advance our understanding of the solar atmosphere.

Pasachoff will view the eclipse—his 49th such event—from a 3,000-foot-high mountain in Tianhuangping, China, along with a group of colleagues and students from Williams College. There, he will gather data to continue his research into the heating of the solar corona, which has a temperature of millions of degrees. "We'll be looking for waves in the corona," he says, "for vibrations in the corona that are a sign of these particular waves in the magnetic field that are heating the corona."

The study of eclipses, Pasachoff says, has been enhanced by advances in computer imaging that make it possible to "bring out" low-contrast features. Just such an image—computer-processed by Pasachoff's colleague, Miloslav Druckmόller of the Brno University in the Czech Republic—was chosen by Nature for the cover of the issue containing Pasachoff's review article.

For these and many other reasons, Pasachoff says, the ground-based study of solar eclipses will continue to provide insights and observations of the sun that would otherwise be unobtainable. As he notes in his Nature review article, "At present the paired science and beauty of solar eclipses remain uniquely available to scientists and others in the path of totality."

Pasachoff's expedition to China will be supported by the National Geographic Society. His eclipse research has been supported by the Committee for Research and Exploration of the National Geographic Society, the National Science Foundation, NASA, and Williams College. NASA's Planetary Sciences Division has also provided the electronic cameras that Pasachoff's team uses both in his eclipse studies and in his studies of Pluto and other outer-solar-system objects, in which he has collaborated with Mike Brown, Caltech's Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor and professor of planetary astronomy.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by California Institute of Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jay M. Pasachoff. Solar eclipses as an astrophysical laboratory. Nature, 2009; DOI: 10.1038/nature07987

Cite This Page:

California Institute of Technology. "Astronomer Champions The Study Of Solar Eclipses In The Modern Era." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 June 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090610133459.htm>.
California Institute of Technology. (2009, June 19). Astronomer Champions The Study Of Solar Eclipses In The Modern Era. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090610133459.htm
California Institute of Technology. "Astronomer Champions The Study Of Solar Eclipses In The Modern Era." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090610133459.htm (accessed September 1, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Monday, September 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Space Shuttle Discovery's Legacy, 30 Years Later

Space Shuttle Discovery's Legacy, 30 Years Later

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) — The space shuttle Discovery launched for the very first time 30 years ago. Here's a look back at its legacy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Experiment Tests Whether Universe Is Actually A Hologram

Experiment Tests Whether Universe Is Actually A Hologram

Newsy (Aug. 27, 2014) — Researchers at Fermilab are using a device called "The Holometer" to test whether our universe is actually a 2-D hologram that just seems 3-D. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket Explodes After Liftoff

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket Explodes After Liftoff

Newsy (Aug. 23, 2014) — The private spaceflight company says it is preparing a thorough investigation into Friday's mishap. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Did Russia Really Find Plankton On The ISS? NASA Not So Sure

Did Russia Really Find Plankton On The ISS? NASA Not So Sure

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — Russian cosmonauts say they've found evidence of sea plankton on the International Space Station's windows. NASA is a little more skeptical. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins