Saturday August 19, 2017

What scientists will be watching during this total eclipse

Why solar eclipses are invaluable to science 0:57

Listen 9:04

Eclipses have fascinated humanity for as long as history records. We don't think of them as messages from angry gods, or signs that a monster is eating the sun anymore. But millions of people staring up at the sky on Monday will be just as thrilled as their ancestors might have been, even though they know they're watching astronomy - not magic.

American Eclipse

One of the interesting things about eclipses is that there's still so much to learn from them. A few of the millions of people watching Monday's eclipse will be doing so in the name of science: conducting observations and experiments that they hope will teach us more about the universe. But this isn't anything new. Scientists have been using the special conditions provided by a total solar esclipse to study the universe for thousands of years.

David Baron is the author of American Eclipse: A Nation's Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World. His book looks back at the eclipse of 1878, which attracted scientists to the United States from all over the world to answer some of the big astronomical questions of the time.


David Baron explains why you owe it to yourself to see a total solar eclipse