Sten Odenwald on Hinode’s view of August 1, 2008 eclipse

Today is an eclipse day – a total solar eclipse – where the moon’s dark shadow sweeps across Earth.

EarthSky asked NASA senior astronomer Sten Odenwald of the Goddard Space Flight Center for more.

Sten Odenwald: Well, I think the important thing is that this is one of the simplest observations that you can make of the sun that shows that the sun is giving us more than just light and heat.

He’s talking about the sun’s corona – which only becomes visible to us during an eclipse – when the moon blots the sun from view. The sun’s fiery corona is visible today across parts of Canada, China, and Russia.

Taking an even closer look is a space observatory called Hinode – Japanese for ‘sunrise.’ Hinode studies solar flares, which are a kind of storm on the sun.

Sten Odenwald: The other kind of solar storm is a coronal mass ejection. Those are giant clouds of magnetized plasma that are hurtled from the sun. And when these things arrive at Earth, they interact with Earth’s magnetic field and produce very intense currents that flow in the upper atmosphere.

And that, Odenwald said, can cause a power blackout and can also harm GPS and other satellite communications.

Sten Odenwald: That’s why satellites like Hinode are so important, because they can literally zoom in on the most active places on the surface on the sun.

Our thanks today to NASA: explore, discover, understand.

Our thanks to:
Sten Odenwald
Senior Astronomer/Author
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD

August 1, 2008

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