Total Solar Eclipse: How a recurring cosmic event continues to help scientists make discoveries

Mainland USA is to witness, what will be the first total solar eclipse it has experienced since 1918, on Monday. The cosmic event has raised interest across the world and with the scientists in particular.

This phenomenon has created awe and fascination among the scientific community for ages. From attempts to uncover age old mysteries to new discoveries, the phenomenon of solar eclipse has played a key role in the progress of science.

Here are some examples for such mysteries that the scientists would be investigating during the upcoming eclipse.

The sun’s corona

Corona is the outer crown of the sun. The corona is so bright on usual times that it is difficult even for satellites to look directly at. Hence an eclipse provides the scientific community with an opportunity to have a close look at the corona, states a report in The Indian Express.

Lessons on solar energy

With the world looking for newer sources of energy, solar power has slowly started to gain wide acceptance. But there are still unanswered questions regarding how solar power grids will respond to disruption of power. The coming solar eclipse is seen as the best opportunity to find how they will react to it.

Solar eclipses have also played a key role in some important scientific discoveries. Here are a few examples:

Distance between the Earth and the Moon

It was during the eclipse of 150 BC that the Greek Hipparchus calculated the distance between the Earth and the Moon. The astronomer had realised that there was 100 percent eclipse in Turkey while Egypt just 1000 km away observed an 80 percent eclipse. Based on this information and using trigonometry he assessed the distance.

Discovery of Helium

The discovery of Helium, the only element discovered outside the planet is connected to an eclipse that occurred in India in 1868. French scientist Pierre Janssen viewed the event through spectroscope from Guntur, Andhra Pradesh. It was then that he saw an unidentified yellow line which he later named as Helium.

Einstein’s relativity

The theory of relativity was first propounded in 1915. Einstein himself said that the theory could be proved during an eclipse. And in 1919 Arthur Eddington observed the correct amount of bending of the light that arrived from a distant star.


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