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Scientists taking to skies on Aug 21 for total Solar Eclipse study of Sun and Mercury

Sunday July 30, 2017 11:00 PM, & Agencies

Solar Eclipse
[A photo illustration of the two NASA WB-57F jet planes that will chase the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, allowing scientists to image the sun's outer atmosphere and study temperature variations on Mercury. (NASA/Faroe Islands/SwRI)]

A group of scientists is taking to the skies to chase the shadow of the moon during the total Solar Eclipse on August 21, 2017 from the unique vantage point of two retrofitted WB-57F jet planes fitted with high-tech telescopes. quoting a statement by NASA reported that Amir Caspi, a scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and his team will soar 50,000 feet over Missouri, Illinois and Tennessee in jets outfitted with high-tech telescopes.

At this altitude, the telescopes mounted on the noses of the planes will be able to capture a clear view of the outer layer of the sun's atmosphere, or the corona; they may also capture thermal images of Mercury, a planet typically obscured by the bright glare from the sun, the report said.

"At the planes' cruising altitude of 50,000 feet, the sky is 20-30 times darker than as seen from the ground, and there is much less atmospheric turbulence, allowing fine structures and motions in the sun's corona to be visible," NASA officials said in the statement.

Researchers are interested in getting an up-close view of the corona so they can better understand the structure of the sun's outer layers.

Using the high-definition images captured during the total solar eclipse, scientists will study the corona for a phenomenon called Alfvén waves, which can occur in a plasma (a gas in which electrons have been separated from their parent atoms) in a magnetic field.

The scientists will examine whether waves move toward or away from the surface of the sun, and measure the strength and size of the waves, the report said.


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