In one month, we’ll see one of the coolest natural experiments of our lifetimes.
NASA scientists say Denver will have about 92 percent totality. We’ll see sort of a crescent sun when the moon moves in front of it on August 21st. Even though it’s not a full eclipse, we’ll notice things like the air getting cooler and the clouds changing.
The eclipse also serves as an experiment, helping scientists learn more about the relationship with the sun and the earth.
Dr. Michelle Thaller, a NASA scientist, says eclipses help scientists learn more about the earth’s atmosphere and our planet’s relationship with the sun.
“It’s sort of amazing to think about how intimately we are connected to the sun, which is our star…we need to learn a lot still about how we interact with the sun. Different layers of our atmosphere reflect the solar light and they let some through… Something as simple as that, how sunlight gets through the atmosphere, that will help us make be better models of how the atmosphere works.”
Dr. Thaller says we can learn more about how the atmosphere stores energy by studying the upcoming eclipse.
Eclipses historically help scientists learn more about other planets in our solar system.
Dr. Thaller says eclipses are used all the time when researching other planets. She says the best way to find other planets around stars is when they go in front of the sun. The planets make little eclipses, blocking out light. So if there are planets around other stars, one way scientists find them is from these tiny solar eclipses.
NASA is actually launching a satellite they call a 'Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite' or ‘TESS’ that will help scientists find these tiny solar eclipses.
As for the eclipses we’ll be able to see in the U.S., it'll happen in the Denver area just before noon on August 21st.
There will be another eclipse in 2024, but scientists say that one, unlike the upcoming eclipse which will move across the entire country, will likely only be visible on the east coast.
Dr. Thaller says she’s excited because she’ll be in the total path of totality. This will be the third solar eclipse she’s seen, and she says ‘they’re life changing.’
“When you see the sky go dark in the middle of the day, there’s a sunset all around you and it gets cold and very still. It’s almost like you’re not on earthy anymore, it’s like you’re on a different planet, it really is something thrilling to actually get myself in that shadow, even if you can’t do that, you’re going to see some really interesting eerie changes, because the world just seems to shift during a solar eclipse."