Eclipse Expert Makes Hot Finds in Sun's Darkest Hour

Tasha Eichenseher
for National Geographic News
July 31, 2008

NEW PHOTOS: Solar Eclipse Seen Around the World August 1 >>

On August 1, astronomer Jay Pasachoff will witness his 47th solar eclipse.

(See Total Solar Eclipse on August 1: Where, How to See It [July 22, 2008].)

Out of the flocks of devoted professionals and amateurs who travel the world hoping to catch those rare minutes when the moon comes between the Earth and sun, casting a shadow over our planet, Pasachoff, a professor at Williams College in Massachusetts, may be the most seasoned.

He is a man on a more-than-30-year mission to study the sun's outer atmosphere—the solar corona—normally hidden behind blue sky and visible from the ground only during total eclipses.

Pasachoff, who is also a National Geographic grantee, has traveled to nearly every continent, collaborating with a global network of academics, technicians, and students, to make sure he's in the eclipse's path. (National Geographic owns National Geographic News.)

He uses high-speed and high-resolution cameras to observe and document changes in the corona's shape.

For the August 1 eclipse, Pasachoff finds himself in Siberia. He recently talked to National Geographic News about the upcoming celestial spectacle.

Why did you pick Russia to view this eclipse?

Pasachoff: This eclipse path goes over Novosibirsk, the third most populous city in Russia, so we could get our personnel and equipment here directly.

And the sun is higher in the sky than it is along the path in Mongolia and China, with much better weather forecasts than earlier in the path near the North Pole or northern Siberia.

What do you hope to see, or discover, with this eclipse?

Continued on Next Page >>




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