While people across the country are racing to find safety glasses and make last-minute travel arrangements, scientists are making other preparations. These are just some of the natural phenomena that will tested with the help of this week’s solar eclipse:
Einstein’s theory of relativity
Einstein’s 1915 theory says that massive objects should warp the shape of space itself by a noticeable amount. Something like the Sun should bend the light from the constellations behind it, making the stars look as if they’ve moved over a teeny bit.
Learning more about the sun’s corona
The sun’s corona, “the bright, high-energy plasma blasting off the Sun’s surface” is the source of space weather, as well as energy particles that “can cause wild auroras, harm satellites, or potentially even swap votes in voting machines should they hit electronics in the right place.” A special telescope, which blocks out most of the sun for the viewer, is used to observe the corona, but eclipses allow scientists to get more precise images of the corona itself. Scientists will be observing the corona from the ground as well as from hot air balloons.
Plant and animal behavior
Unexpected darkness in a plant or animal’s habitat could allow scientists to study their reactions. Many plants and animals behave differently in the run-up or wake of natural disasters, will they show any new behavior during the eclipse?
The effect on weather in different climate zones
“The eclipse will be passing over several different ecosystems, including forests, farmland, and prairies.” Professional scientists, as well as citizen scientists, are preparing to record the temperature throughout the eclipse in St. Louis and the surrounding area.
Why it’s hot
There’s still much about the world we have yet to learn, and a natural phenomenon like the eclipse gives us a unique perspective to measure and observe. It’s something to be excited about that isn’t horrible!