Counting Down to the Eclipse

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Hello, this Alyssa Boll and Keon Gibson, and we are interns at HAO on the total solar eclipse team. We are spending the summer diving into preparations for observations of the total solar eclipse in August!

This week we received the two cameras that will share the spotlight at the eclipse: a thermal infrared camera (FLIR Corporation) and a PolarCam visible camera (4D Corporation). The thermal infrared camera will be used to image the sun's corona between 1 and 5 microns, while the PolarCam will be sensitive to roughly the same wavelengths as the human eye.

The data from the cameras’ observations will be known as the Rosetta Stone data since it will provide valuable reference measurements of the solar corona. The corona is the sun's outermost layer that merges with solar wind, which we know later as space weather.

The PolarCam’s lens is inspired by an ocean animal called the mantis shrimp. While it may seem odd that technology we’re using to study the Sun originated at the bottom of the ocean, the mantis shrimp’s eyes are truly state of the art.

Humans have three photoreceptors in our eyes, sensitive to red, green, and blue. The mantis shrimp has sixteen! Not only can it see more colors, but it can detect polarized light. The PolarCam uses the same vision methods, but now we are pointing it toward the Sun. The polarized light from the corona will provide valuable information in understanding how coronal structures form. With this knowledge, we can better predict space weather.

Keep watching the blog for updates and photos taken around the lab using the new cameras!

-Alyssa Boll and Keon Gibson