• Moiya McTier

Astronomy Fun Fact #79

Today is a really exciting day for sky-watchers and solar astronomers everywhere, because today there's a total solar eclipse!

This afternoon, thousands of people in Chile and Argentina will gather along the path of totality to see the moon block the entire sun for just a few minutes. Some of those people will be scientists gathering data on the Sun's corona -- its outer atmosphere.

The Sun is incredibly bright, so scientists can't actually study its corona unless the main disk of the Sun is blocked. They can block it artificially with an instrument called a coronagraph, but because of the way light gets refracted (bounced/bent) through an atmosphere, a coronagraph also covers the inner layers of the corona.

But a total solar eclipse doesn't have that same problem, so this is the ONLY TIME that scientists can study the entire corona of the Sun. With the data that gets collected today, scientists will be better able to understand solar flares and how the Sun is evolving over time.

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