Solar eclipse will reveal stunning corona, scientists predict | Trending Viral hub

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Solar eclipse will reveal stunning corona, scientists predict

Predicting what the sun will look like during a total solar eclipse is a useful exercise for scientists in the long quest to understand how our star works.

special report about the total solar eclipse that will be visible from parts of the US, Mexico and Canada on April 8, 2024.

Solar eclipse chasers have good reason to expect a particularly spectacular view on April 8 when the moon briefly passes in front of the sun.

But not everyone is content to wait until the big moment to see what the sun will be like. A team of scientists is using supercomputers and very recent data to predict the appearance of the Sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona. The region is only visible during a total solar eclipse, when the the moon precisely blocks light from the sun’s visible surfaceSo the exercise allows scientists to test their understanding of how the sun’s magnetic field governs the star’s atmosphere.


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And today that magnetic field is super active, making it even harder for researchers to anticipate the image of the corona. “Going into this we knew that the sun is very dynamic now. “It’s close to the maximum phase of the solar cycle,” says heliophysicist Jon Linker, president and senior research scientist at Predictive Science Inc. He and his colleagues first ventured into modeling the corona during eclipses in the mid-1990s. The basic physics reflected in the process has remained constant for three decades, although calculation technology and input data have advanced considerably.

And this year the team is tackling a new challenge: continually updating the prediction as new data arrives. In previous years, Linker and his colleagues have used magnetic field data collected about 10 days before the eclipse. But this year the simulation will last about three weeks in total. The exercise has been enlightening, he says. “We can already see that the corona we predicted on the day of the eclipse now has differences from the corona we would have predicted at the beginning of our calculations,” says Linker.

Linker and his colleagues are making predictions for both the magnetic field at the time of the eclipse and the view of the corona from Earth. Although humans can’t see magnetic fields, eclipse watchers should expect to see a view of the corona that falls somewhat between the two simulations, Linker says, because human eyes can pick up more detail and structure in the corona during the totality of what is visible. in basic white light coronal predictions. (Before and after totality, remember to wear eclipse glasses to protect your eyes when looking at the sun.)

Another useful feature in the The team’s website shows how the sun will appear from any point along the path of totality. This is valuable because the sun’s orientation changes as viewed from different locations on Earth, with a nearly 90-degree rotation visible between western Mexico, where the moon’s shadow will first touch land, and eastern Canada. , the last piece of land where totality will be seen.

Unlike Earth’s magnetic field, which arises from the planet’s core and is more or less stable on human time scales, The Sun’s magnetic field warps and warps over an 11-year cycle. while the star spins. From this changing magnetic field a pattern emerges in team predictionsof spectacular white peaks interspersed by dark gaps. This eclipse will be in stark contrast to the 2017 coast-to-coast eclipse in the US, when the sun was near the low of its cycle and the corona was quieter and less structured.

Even in an era when several spacecraft are dedicated to observing the sun, an eclipse is a unique opportunity to understand our star, particularly its lower corona. No man-made instrument is as good as a total eclipse at blocking out only the visible disk of the sun and nothing more at revealing the entire corona. “There has never been an occultation disk like the Moon; it is the best occultation disk that has ever existed,” Linker says.

Still, the prediction project has benefited greatly from recently launched spacecraft. This year’s predictions will incorporate data from the Solar Orbiter, a European Space Agency mission that launched in 2020 and is designed to provide a rare view of the star’s poles. The probe will offer a valuable view of the Sun’s magnetic field from a different perspective than most available observations, which have been made along a direct line between the Sun and Earth.

Predicting the sun’s corona during an eclipse is not just a good trick. It requires an understanding of the Sun’s magnetic field, the same magnetic field that governs bursts of plasma and radiation that can affect life on and around Earth. These phenomena, collectively called space weather, can endanger navigation and communications satellites in orbit, as well as the electrical grid. But unlike Earth’s weather, scientists cannot yet make accurate advanced forecasts for space weather.

Linker hopes his team’s predictive work, particularly this year’s venture into continuum modeling, will bring scientists one step closer to that goal, he says. “We think this new modeling paradigm is really interesting for future space weather prediction because it is much more like how weather predictions are made.”

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