August total solar eclipse gives scientists rare chance to study sun’s corona

James' World 2

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On Aug. 21, as millions of Americans prepare to watch a total solar eclipse from the ground — wearing their safety spectacles, natch — a small team of scientists will hop aboard a Gulfstream V jet in Tennessee. Time will be short. The plane, a research aircraft owned by the National Science Foundation, will race to intercept the path of the moon’s shadow and follow it as long as it can. The astrophysicists, once they’re above southern Kentucky, should have a four-minute window to record the ghost of the missing sun.

They won’t have another shot for years. The next solar eclipse to pass over the United States occurs in 2024.

“The thing that makes me nervous is we only have those four minutes,” said Jenna Samra, an applied physics graduate student at Harvard University. “All this work for years and then we’d have to wait for the next eclipse.”

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A total solar eclipse in Belitung…

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