Total Solar Eclipse
For the first time is 99 years, all of North America will experience a solar eclipse and the path of the total solar eclipse crosses straight through the United States. NASA is gearing up for this event that will take place on August 21, 2017. To help facilitate educators and observers, a website was created that you can access here. You’ll find information on the science behind the solar eclipse as well as resources on how to view the eclipse. In basic terms, an eclipse occurs when the moon crosses between the Sun and the Earth at just the right angle to completely obscure the Sun, leaving only the Sun’s atmosphere to be seen by observers. The event only lasts for just under 3 minutes!
Even though the brightest part of the Sun is blocked, the Sun’s rays are still too intense to look at directly. Special viewing glasses and lenses are recommended to protect your eyes from harmful radiation. The path of the total eclipse stretches from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina. People outside of this path will see varying degrees of a partial eclipse. NASA has posted an interactive map of the path of the eclipse.
The eclipse gives scientist an opportunity to conduct experiments and research. It’s also a learning opportunity for citizen scientists. NASA has provided resources to get citizens involved in the action. Here you can find observatories that will be capturing images of the eclipse, research into animal behavior and changes in the Earth’s atmosphere. There is something for everyone, so keep an eye out this August.
Kepler and New Planets
The Kepler mission has just released a new catalog of planet candidates. There are 219 new planet candidates, 10 of these fall in the habitable zone of their nearest star and are near-Earth sized. The findings are publicly available here. This comprehensive catalog is the last report from Kepler of the Cygnus constellation before it moves on to new territory.
While Kepler is in search of planets much like our own, with the goal of finding signs of life elsewhere in the Universe, there are many other benefits to a large catalog of planet candidates. The Universe is vast and so we can only see a small fraction of the planets that are caught in the orbit of their stars. Understanding the composition of these the planets helps scientist better understand how they are formed and their makeup. About half of the discovered planets are considered uninhabitable, either with no discernible surface or an atmosphere that is so heavy that life as we know it couldn’t survive. With the release of this updated catalog, researchers have a new dataset to better understand the galaxy we call home.