Solar eclipse will help scientists learn more about 'space weather'

Solar Eclipse CATE Technology

EL PASO, Texas - The solar eclipse later this month will be the most studied of all time, with some of the data collected coming from ordinary folks volunteering their time for science.

Scientists say the eclipse will give us an unprecedented view of the solar atmosphere never seen before.

CATE, the Continental American Telescope Eclipse, is an experiment more than two years in the making.

Scientists donated telescopes to trained volunteers to capture 90 minutes of the solar eclipse. The telescopes will be spread evenly along the 14 states that will experience a full solar eclipse.

"We never had this data because this doesn't happen very often - that the path is crossing land mass for this long of time," said Dr. Han Uitenbroeck, the director of the National Solar Observatory in New Mexico.

The Land of Enchantment will only experience a partial eclipse, but the 60 mile wide path of "totality" from Oregon to South Carolina will be ground zero  with numerous telescopes.

"During a regular eclipse, if you stay in one place, you can only see the corona for 1 or 2 minutes," Uitenbroeck said, "Putting telescopes at different places allows us to build up a time series where we can see how the corona changes."

The CATE experiment will use 68 identical telescopes along that path of totality. The telescopes will be manned by trained volunteers and scientists and the data uploaded will greatly benefit researchers.

The hope is new research could lead to scientific advancements that will keep solar disruptions from reaching the earth and interfering with our satellite and radio communications.

"What we want to do is predict phenomena that effects us on earth - what we call space weather," Uitenbroeck said.

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