Capturing Images of the Solar Eclipse with the Megamovie App
Buenos Aires, Argentina
There is only a short time to go before the next total eclipse to happen after the Great American Eclipse of 2017. The Megamovie project, created for amateur and professional photographers to upload the images of the eclipse, works to help study the Sun during the total solar eclipse. The project is a combined effort by Google and the University of California, Berkeley.
Amateurs add to video
Thousands of photographers and amateur astronomers contributed by recording the total solar eclipse and uploading their photos to Megamovie app, which would also be very useful for documenting the path of totality of the 2019 solar eclipse across the South Pacific, Chile, and Argentina.
The totality for those viewing the total solar eclipse on land will last for about 2 minutes 30 seconds, depending on location in Argentina. For people in San Juan province, the totality will last 2 and a half minutes, but for those in Buenos Aires, it will take about 2 minutes 5 seconds. The images collected and uploaded to Megamovie app could later turn into a movie depicting the crossing of the Moon’s shadow along the totality path.
Such observations could be amazing because even an airplane flying along the totality path can only capture 4-5 minutes of totality at most because the shadow of the Moon moves along the ground with the speed of about 2,400 kilometers per hour. And before the 2017 Megamovie project, eclipse images were only stitched together using hand-drawn sketches, so the digital technologies of today can provide a truly impressive result.
Upload Your Pictures
Anyone who has a smartphone could use the Megamovie app and upload their pictures of the total solar eclipse. Downloading the app is simple, and volunteers can also take photos from within the app to upload them right away. The individual pictures captured by citizen astronomers would go into an archive for studying the Sun’s behavior during the total eclipse.
Photographers and amateur astronomers alike can also take pictures of the Sun during the annular eclipse on December 26, 2019. During an annular eclipse, the Moon does not cover the Sun completely, instead leaving an annulus or a bright ring. The Moon during the annular eclipse is farther from our planet, which is why its apparent size is smaller than that of the Sun.
The videos compiled using Megamovie can be useful for scientific purposes. The project was proposed in 2011 by Hugh Hudson, a solar physicist at the UC Berkeley, and Scott McIntosh, from the High Altitude Observatory of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.
Studying the Suns Corona
Megamovie project is aimed at studying the solar corona, the faint haze of ionized plasma heated to a million degrees and shooting out of the Sun, and its interaction with the chromosphere at its base. The solar corona can be studied using telescopes that block the bright solar disk, but the chromosphere is not visible even then. That is why researchers still seek the answer to what component of chromosphere generates the bursts of plasma observed in the corona.
Thanks to the movie compiled from various images, a large amount of data is collected from millions of eclipse viewers. However, the researchers are yet to figure out what can be learned about the interaction between the corona and the chromosphere.
Pictures captured right before the Moon’s shadow covers the bright disk of the Sun and right after can also be useful for research. When the Sun is slightly visible behind the Moon close to totality, it produces Baily’s beads, or bright spots around the rim, which can help scientists to map Moon’s geography. Another phenomenon, a diamond ring effect, produced by the last flash before totality and first right after, can also help with lunar mapping and estimating the size of the Sun. By using the app, these stages of totality can be captured automatically, without special preparation from the user.
Since Megamovie is about photographing the solar eclipse in its total and partial states, it is important to mention safely viewing of this celestial event. For those watching the eclipse in Argentina from locations along the path of totality, which include provinces of San Juan, Santa Fe, Cordoba, La Rioja, San Luis, and Buenos Aires, it is safe to view the eclipse without special solar filters, but only during totality. Before and after totality, and for the whole time in case of those viewing the partial eclipse outside of totality path, special solar eclipse glasses or handheld viewers are needed to view the eclipse safely.
A total solar eclipse is a natural wonder of scientific importance. For those who have seen it once, it might be a life-changing and transformative experience that will lead them to chase the eclipses in the future. When the solar eclipse returns to the US in 2024, the Megamovie project is planned to stitch the images again for an impressive eclipse movie.