NASA to Study Earth’s Ionosphere During Total Solar Eclipse

This total solar eclipse will have imperceptible effects.

NASA to Study Earth's Ionosphere During Total Solar Eclipse
A layer of charged particles, called the ionosphere, surrounds Earth, extending from about 50 to 400 miles above the surface of the planet. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Duberstein

On August 21, the Moon will slide in front of the Sun. Thus, as scientists predict, the day will melt into a dusky night in the US.

It will be a full solar eclipse and NASA is ready to study the Earth’s ionosphere during it. On that day, The Moon’s shadow will block the Sun’s light, and weather permitting, those within the path of totality will be treated to a view of the Sun’s outer atmosphere, called the corona.According to

According to scientists, this total solar eclipse will have imperceptible effects. For example, sudden loss of extreme ultraviolet radiation from the Sun, which may generate an ionized layer of Earth’s atmosphere, called the ionosphere.

The ionosphere layer grows and shrinks according to solar conditions. Currently, it is the main focus of NASA scientists that they will use as a ready-made experiment, courtesy of nature.

Bob Marshall, a space scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder said, “The eclipse turns off the ionosphere’s source of high-energy radiation. Without ionizing radiation, the ionosphere will relax, going from daytime conditions to nighttime conditions and then back again after the eclipse.”

Earth’s ionosphere is an electrified layer of the atmosphere that reacts to changes from both Earth below and space above. Such changes cause a disturbance in the ionosphere that can interfere with communication and navigation signals.Greg Earle, an electrical and computer engineer at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, said, “In our lifetime, this is the best eclipse to see. But we’ve also got a denser network of satellites, GPS and radio traffic than ever before. It’s the first time we’ll have such a wealth of information to study the effects of this eclipse; we’ll be drowning in data.”

Greg Earle, an electrical and computer engineer at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, said, “In our lifetime, this is the best eclipse to see. But we’ve also got a denser network of satellites, GPS and radio traffic than ever before. It’s the first time we’ll have such a wealth of information to study the effects of this eclipse; we’ll be drowning in data.”

On August 21, scientists will exactly know how much solar radiation is blocked, the area of land it’s blocked over and for how long. Once they combined the measurements of the ionosphere during the eclipse, they’ll have information on both the solar input and corresponding ionosphere response. This will enable them to study the mechanisms underlying ionospheric changes better than ever before.

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Scientists will probe the D-region’s response to the eclipse with very low frequency, or VLF, radio signals. This is the lowest and least dense part of the ionosphere and because of that, the least understood.

They will later think of E- and F-regions of the ionosphere.