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Solar-eclipse science in the 21st century

Just as ground-based nighttime astronomy has changed since Edwin Hubble took all-night 8-hour exposures of individual galaxies, contemporary solar-eclipse observations make use of the latest optical, electronic, and computer technologies to view our nearest star with capabilities that are not met out-of-eclipse on mountaintop observatories or with spacecraft. Though eclipse observations are widely spaced in time, they can improve on cadence, wavelength choice, and spatial resolution compared with spacecraft chromospheric and coronal observations (Pasachoff, Jay M., 2009, “Solar Eclipses as an Astrophysical Laboratory,” Nature, 459, 789-795). I describe some recent solar-eclipse observations and a sample of recent scientific results over a sunspot cycle from expeditions to Zambia (2001), Greece (2006), Siberia (2008), China (2009), and Easter Island (2010). I describe our plans to observe the annular solar eclipse of May 20, 2012, with the Jansky Very Large Array and other radio telescopes. I describe plans for the November 14, 2012, total solar eclipse from Queensland, Australia. I describe the liaisons of eclipse observations with those from such spacecraft as NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, Japan’s Hinode, NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) and the European Space Agency’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. Finally, I describe the paths of the next eclipses, including the Canada/US eclipses of 2017 and 2024. Toronto and Montreal are at the edge of 2024’s totality.

Cody Hall

Jay M. Pasachoff (Williams College)

April 27, 2012
14:00 - 15:00