Our Sun is about to take a break for the summer, albeit a brief repose noticeable only by people in Southern and Central Africa.
However, while the first total eclipse of the new millennium will not be visible from the United States, it will be made available live, from the Southern African nation of Zambia, to the rest of the world through NASA Television. The June 21st astral performance also is available to internet users who have high-speed internet connections.
Watching a total eclipse means different things to different people. Daylight fades in the middle of the day as the Moon slowly covers the face of the Sun, creating an eerie dusk as a shadow is cast on the Earth's surface.
Our ancient ancestors considered an eclipse to be a bad omen, and often carried out various rituals in an effort to scare away suspected evil forces that devoured the Sun. Today, scientists travel around the world to study this rare event and millions of people are satisfied to simply watch this celestial display of nature.
A science team will be in Zambia to capture video images of the eclipse using specially equipped telescopes. Besides being streamed live to the rest of the world, these images will be broadcast to about 110 participating museums and other venues.
This year, the event will focus on the themes of solar maximum, habitability of space and living with the Sun. "A total solar eclipse provides great opportunities to engage and inform the public about NASA's Sun -Earth Connection science and the effects of the active Sun in space and on Earth, " said Dr. George Withbroe, Science Director of the Sun-Earth Connection theme at NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC.
A message from the Expedition Two crew on board International Space Station is part of the webcast, which includes a conversation with American astronauts Jim Voss, Susan Helms and Russian Commander Yury Usachev.
NASA also will take viewers one million miles into space to see how scientists use artificially generated eclipses to study enormous solar eruptions. Scientific teams going to Africa for the eclipse will rely on the ESA-NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft to show them the Sun's weather during the event.
Several NASA centers plan events associated and some of its Centers are planning comprehensive solar eclipse events:
* Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD - Dr. Paal Brekke, European Space Agency, will present a multimedia summary from SOHO's observations in the Albert Einstein Planetarium at Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC, from 12:20 p.m. to 12:50 p.m. EDT. More information is available on the Internet at: http://www.gsfc.nasa.gov/
* Jet Propulsion Laboratory Pasadena, CA - Students from the Los Angeles area can watch the webcast, look through solar telescopes and hear African-American Scientists and members of the National Society of Black Physicists discuss how the Sun effects the Earth and how minority students can get more involved in science. For additional internet information, go to: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/
* Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL - Reporters and other media representatives are invited to interview NASA astronomer Mitzi Adams, who will be in Zambia to witness the eclipse. Telephone interviews are available by contacting Steve Roy at 256/544-6535. More information is available on the Internet at: http://www.msfc.nasa.gov/newsroom
To view the eclipse from a high-speed internet connection, visit the World Wide Web at: http://www.exploratorium.edu/eclipse
A complete list of participating museums can be found on the web at:http://www.exploratorium.edu/eclipse/zambia/participants.html
NASA TV will carry the eclipse from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. EDT. Stations carrying this feed are requested to super "Courtesy: NASA/Exploratorium." NASA TV can be found on GE-2, Transponder 9C, at 85 degrees West longitude, vertical polarization, with a frequency of 3880 MHz and audio of 6.8 MHz.
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