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NASA’s Scientists and Volunteers Tackle the October 14 Solar Eclipse


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NASA’s Scientists and Volunteers Tackle the October 14 Solar Eclipse

A crescent of bright white light surrounds all but one edge of the black Moon. About halfway along that dark edge is a small spot of sunlight.
In this image captured during the October 14 annular solar eclipse we can see that the disk of the Sun was almost totally blocked by the smaller dark Moon. Between the horns of the crescent is a Baily’s Bead, a spot of sunlight peeking through a valley on the Moon’s apparent edge.
Clinton Lewis, West Kentucky University

Did you see October 14th’s solar eclipse? Most of the time we can easily forget that we are on a planet spinning and orbiting in space with other celestial bodies. Watching the Moon move across the face of the Sun reminds us of our place in the solar system. 

Several NASA science teams and many NASA volunteers used the October 14 eclipse to collect data and test observation protocols, software, hardware, and logistics. They met enthusiastic crowds of people taking in the spectacle and making unique observations. The October eclipse was an “annular” eclipse, meaning that some sunlight always leaked around the edges of the moon. The next solar eclipse, on April 8, 2024, will be a total eclipse. Total eclipses are rare scientific opportunities, so NASA teams used the October eclipse to practice and prepare for the upcoming April eclipse.

In New Mexico, the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta rolled right into an Annular Eclipse event! An estimated 100,000 people took in the view of the annular eclipse of the Sun from Albuquerque, which was directly on the path where the eclipse reached its maximum – the path of annularity.

On a dry and dusty open space, a huge crowd of people has gathered, both standing and sitting, many looking up at the sky. The sky above is blue, with some wispy clouds down by the horizon. On the far left some white tent roofs are visible. In the distance on the right we can see a partially inflated red hot air balloon, resting on the ground.
The crowd gathered for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and annular eclipse.
Credit: Heather Fischer
The 3-D NASA logo sits outside an exhibit tent at the Albuquerque Balloon fiesta and subsequent eclipse viewing event.
Credit: Heather Fischer

Elsewhere in New Mexico, the Eclipse Soundscapes team gathered in the Randall Davey Audubon Center & Sanctuary in Sante Fe. The project team deployed eight AudioMoth recording devices the day before the eclipse and retrieved them the day after the eclipse to support research on whether or not eclipses affect life – and sounds – on Earth.  

They also recruited staff and visitors to the nearby Valles Caldera National Preserve to participate in Eclipse Soundscapes as Observers. Many folks used the prompting worksheets – and eclipse glasses – provided by Eclipse Soundscapes to record and report their multisensory experience of the eclipse. 

A bearded man in a baseball hat smiles at the camera while he holds up an AudioMoth recording device, which is a small rectangular device about half the size of a cell phone. Next to him, a woman holding a pen and paper covered in notes. She’s also looking at the camera and smiling. The two are under an evergreen trees and surrounded by shrubs with little, yellowing leaves.
Eclipse Soundscapes Team members Dr. Henry “Trae” Winter and MaryKay Severino, getting ready to deploy an AudioMoth device at the Randall Davey Audubon Center & Sanctuary in Sante Fe, NM
Credit: MaryKay Severino
Two women sit on folding camp chairs outside. Behind them is a wooden fence and a small barn built of logs. The grass in the field is golden rather than green. The woman on the left has straight blonde hair and she’s looking at a paper in her hands. The woman on the right, who has brown hair and is wearing eclipse glasses, is looking up at the sky. Both are smiling. A black and brown dog sits on the ground between the two women.
Valles Caldera Park visitors used the Eclipse Soundscapes worksheet and eclipse glasses distributed by Park Rangers to learn more about the Eclipse Soundscapes project, take notes on what nature changes they heard, saw, or felt during the annular eclipse, and then use a QR code to submit their observations to the project. 
Credit: MaryKay Severino
A crowd of people, including families with young children, gathers on a broad plaza paved with concrete tiles. The people are in small groups, some with lawn chairs, some sitting on the tiles. The sky is a cloudless blue.
The SunSketcher team gathered in Odessa, TX, together with other eclipse chasers,  to test their new cell phone app. This app will allow volunteers to help measure the size and shape of the Sun during April’s total eclipse.
Credit: Clinton Lewis, West Kentucky University
A crescent of bright white light surrounds all but one edge of the black Moon. About halfway along that dark edge is a small spot of sunlight.
In this image captured during the October 14 annular solar eclipse we can see that the disk of the Sun was almost totally blocked by the smaller dark Moon. Between the horns of the crescent is a Baily’s Bead, a spot of sunlight peeking through a valley on the Moon’s apparent edge.
Credit: Clinton Lewis, West Kentucky University

The Dynamic Eclipse Broadcasting Initiative was also on the move. Project leader Bob Baer, student Nathan Culli, and collaborator Mike Kentrianakis gathered in Midland, TX, for a good view of the annular eclipse. They tested their set-up and managed to successfully broadcast their telescope view from sunny Texas back to their home institution of Southern Illinois University in cloudy Carbondale. 

On a parking lot near white and grey three-floor residential buildings two men are hunched over telescopes and computers, respectively. Square-sided equipment bags lie open on the pavement. The shadows cast on the ground are long, indicating it is the beginning or end of a long day.
The DEB Initiative set up for testing pre-eclipse.
Credit: Bob Baer and Mike Kentrianakis
Members of the DEB Initiative under their reflective tent in Midland, TX, ready to broadcast their telescope view of the eclipse back to the stadium at their home institution of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.
Credit: Bob Baer and Mike Kentrianakis.
Members of the Salt Lake Astronomical Society, NASA volunteers and others gather in anticipation of the October 14, 2023 annular eclipse.
Credit: NASA volunteer Danny Roylance

All in all, the day was a great success! On to April 8, 2024 and the total eclipse!

More information: 

Curious about the other eclipse science projects that you can join? Check out this website https://science.nasa.gov/heliophysics/programs/citizen-science/

and this cool video: https://twitter.com/i/status/1713910355842257261 

Want to know more and keep up to date on all the Heliophysics Big Year events? Follow @NASASun on X. 

Want another chance to see the October 14 annular eclipse? Check out the recording of NASA’s live stream of the eclipse at https://twitter.com/i/broadcasts/1zqKVqymlNPxB






NASA’s Citizen Science Program:
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      Calling all Eclipse Enthusiasts: Become a NASA Partner Eclipse Ambassador!
      By Vivian White, Astronomical Society of the Pacific
      Eclipse Ambassadors help share information with their communities about how to safely observe the Sun, such as using handheld solar viewers. Los Angeles Astronomical Society/Iraneide De Oliveira Are you an astronomy enthusiast or undergraduate student with a passion for sharing space science? We are excited to share with you a wonderful opportunity to become an official NASA Partner Eclipse Ambassador and help your community experience the awe and wonder of science. 
      In this exciting NASA partnership funded through NASA’s Science Activation program, undergraduate students and experienced eclipse enthusiasts who become Eclipse Ambassadors will pair up to engage and prepare local communities in advance of the April 2024 solar eclipse. All training, partnerships, resources, and connections with local underserved partners will be provided. The program supports community outreach before the upcoming 2024 eclipse in communities off the path of totality. Undergraduates will also receive a stipend and opportunities to further their involvement in NASA programs. 
      If this interests you, apply today. You can also find Eclipse Ambassadors near you via our Eclipse Ambassadors map. We are still recruiting and partnering hundreds of Eclipse Ambassadors across the U.S. through the end of 2023, but don’t hesitate. Your community needs you! 
      What you’ll find when you apply:
      A supportive network of enthusiasts who regularly share eclipse support A partner in your community (each partnership consists of an undergraduate and an eclipse enthusiast) Materials including solar viewing glasses, activities, handouts, and more  Connections to local community centers reaching underserved audiences Regular social hours and presentations from experts in eclipses and communication  Opportunities to continue your journey with NASA through collaborations with partners in heliophysics, education, and communication
      Learn More and Apply

      People use handmade solar viewers to safely observe the Sun at Faulkner County Library in Arkansas. Darcy Howard Share

      Last Updated Nov 07, 2023 Related Terms
      2024 Solar Eclipse Eclipses Heliophysics Heliophysics Division Science Activation Solar Eclipses The Sun Explore More
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