Solar Eclipse: Sunsketcher
2 mins read

Solar Eclipse: Sunsketcher

Citizen Science is a collaboration between scientists and people who are curious or concerned about the world around them and are motivated to make a difference.  Anyone can participate, and the data collected by citizen scientists help scientists come to real conclusions. For scientists who study the sun, a solar eclipse is a rare opportunity to do research. The Total Solar Eclipse on April 8, 2024, is a perfect opportunity to assist with sun research through citizen science.  

One citizen science opportunity is Sunsketcher. Sunsketcher is a NASA citizen science project seeking to create a database of images that will help scientists map the sun. Right now, the size and shape of the sun is known to an accuracy of about 50 Km. It is hoped that photos taken during the eclipse will help generate a more accurate estimate of the sun’s size and shape.  

Just before the eclipse reaches totality a phenomenon called Baily’s Beads occurs. These are brief flashes of light that spread out along the thin crescent of remaining sunlight. They occur again as the sun exits totality. It is these flashes of light that Sunsketcher participants will be photographing. Scientists have an accurate understanding of the moon’s shape thanks to satellite observations. It is hoped that this knowledge of the moon’s topography and photos of Baily’s Beads taken by citizen scientists will result in a more accurate understanding of the size and shape of the sun.

To participate in the Sunsketcher project: 

  • You will need a smartphone with the Sunsketcher app (available for free download in the app store) installed on it 
  • You must be located along or close to the line of Totality-Plano is in the zone of Totality 
  • Run the app on your phone during the eclipse. You will be able to watch and enjoy the eclipse during this time. In fact, the scientific quality of the image will be better if you leave your phone alone while it records the eclipse.  

Celebrate the eclipse at the library! All five Plano locations will have eclipse programming from 1 pm to 2 pm the day of the eclipse. If you are planning to participate in the Sunsketcher project while you view the eclipse, swing by the citizen science table to get an ‘I’m a Citizen Scientist’ sticker. 

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