Eclipse brings public into the streets - and into the air

An orbital view of last week's solar eclipse from the Noaa/Nasa Discovr (sic, it's an acronym) spacecraft. Credit: Nasa

Space does not play an obvious role in people's everyday lives. But a solar eclipse sends people out into the streets to watch the Moon pass in front of the Sun. A solar eclipse passed over the Pacific and Southeast Asia last week, triggering a wave of reports as people watched from the ground and the air.

The Straits Times wrote several articles about how Singapore’s schools were preparing for the event and how the tens of thousands of Singaporeans turned out for the eclipse. Teachers enthusiastically embraced the chance to give their students a first-hand experience. The Paya Lebar Methodist Girls' School spent weeks teaching its students to use solar telescopes and safely observe the eclipse through special glasses. The eclipse has inspired several teachers to incorporate astronomy into their curriculum, the Straits Times reported.

Professional scientists and amateur eclipse enthusiasts got a special treat when Alaska Airlines agreed to reroute its flight between Alaska and Hawaii (My Northwest) so passengers could watch the eclipse from 35,000 feet. Space Weather posted a gallery of images from the flight.

People in Australia’s Northern Territory only saw a partial eclipse, ABC reports. But five total eclipses will pass over the region between 2020 and 2040. One of the eclipse enthusiasts predicted that Durban and other north Australian cities will become a hot destination for astronomy tourists.

This Nasa-generated map shows the path of the solar eclipse that will pass over the United States on August 27, 2017. Credit: Nasa/Goddard Space Flight Center

Cities beneath the path of the 2017 solar eclipse are preparing for their own wave of eclipse tourism. Mashable gave some travel advice for eclipse spotters. The Kentucky New Era wrote about Hopkinsville’s plans to receive 50,000 visitors (subscription required). WyoFile wrote about hotels around Jackson Hole that began booking eclipse tourists five years ago.

Earth to Sky Calculus is an after school science program that uses high altitude balloons to study Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field. The students plan to send balloon-borne instruments into the stratosphere to observe the 2017 solar eclipse. Some of the students flew to Indonesia last week to test their instruments during an actual eclipse. Another student project, the Knox County Eclipse Space Balloon Project, also plans to fly a near space balloon to observe the eclipse.

A summary of recent solar eclipse research has been posted to arXiv (1604.02987). As the Moon’s shadow passes over the Earth, it alters temperatures and winds from surface up through the stratosphere. Gravity waves ripple from the Moon’s shadow as air cools and warms. Although it focuses on professional peer-reviewed research, it could be a source of inspiration for amateurs who want to do more than watch the Moon pass in front of the Sun.