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Solar Eclipse Facts From NASA Scientists

7 Things You Never Knew About the Solar Eclipse, Straight From NASA Scientists

After months of waiting and planning, the solar eclipse is finally almost here! Maybe you're one of the lucky ones traveling to catch a glimpse of the solar eclipse in action. Or perhaps you're someone who has to sit this one out at work and wait for the next solar eclipse in 2024. Whatever the case, six NASA scientists took part in a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) to answer all of your eclipse-related questions.

Six scientists participated in the AMA: Noah Petro, a NASA post doc; Alexa Halford, a contractor at NASA Goddard; Mitzi Adams, a solar scientist for NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center; Bill Cooke, head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office; and Jay Herman and Guoyong Wen, both atmospheric scientists. They answered a variety of questions and stressed the importance of solar eclipse safety. Keep reading to see what these incredible people revealed!

Animals definitely react to the eclipse.

Halford and Cooke both mentioned that animals might react a bit strangely to the eclipse. Cooke wrote that "animals will exhibit twilight behavior." This could include seeing ants heading back to their mounds or chickens going to sleep. And though animals don't necessarily know as humans do that a solar eclipse is coming, they "have enough common sense not to look at the sun during the solar eclipse."


If you're not in the "path of totality" of the solar eclipse, you won't be able to tell the difference.

According to Herman, "your eyes will adapt to the change" and the light difference won't be that much. It'll be like looking toward the sky between noon and late afternoon — a little less bright but nothing crazy.

If you can't catch the eclipse now, waiting for it is OK.

The next solar eclipse will be here in seven years, and waiting for it might be in your best interest — if you're in the Northeast. Cooke wrote that the "2024 eclipse will be certainly be more geographically convenient" for people in that area.

NASA can "calculate eclipses many centuries ahead."

With the help of computers, NASA can easily figure out when eclipses will happen. Herman wrote that knowing "the motions of the planets and moons with high accuracy" is what allows them to do this. However, as Cooke pointed out, the only questionable part of their calculations is "the slow-down and the rate of the Earth's rotation."

Astronauts on the International Space Station will also be able to see the eclipse.

The astronauts will only be able to see the shadow it creates on Earth, so while they'll be experiencing a byproduct of the event, they won't be able to see it in full from the ISS.

The solar eclipse will be used for research purposes.

Scientists will use the solar eclipse to study the inner portion of the solar corona. It helps them "better understand the transport of older storms, which, if Earth direct, can drive geomagnetic storms and space weather." Adams added that it's a part of the sun that our current space equipment doesn't get to explore.

It'll be the first solar eclipse some see in their lifetime.

You might've noticed that this particular solar eclipse is getting a lot of attention. Herman thinks it's both because of social media and that for some people, it's the first one they've ever had the chance to see. Cooke also believes it's because this particular eclipse is so unique. "This eclipse is the first one since 1918 in which the moon's shadow cuts across the United States, which is a fairly rare occurrence. Practically the entire country is within a day's drive of the path of totality . . . " Cooke wrote.

The team answered a lot more questions that you can read in full on the Reddit page. For now, you can start your countdown to Aug. 21!

Image Source: Flickr user gsfc
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