Project: Citizen CATE Experiment
On August 21st, 2017, the United States will be in the path of totality for a total solar eclipse–an event that hasn’t happened since 1979! The Citizen CATE (Continental America Telescopic Eclipse) Experiment is offering a team of volunteers across the U.S. a unique opportunity to get involved in research surrounding this rare event. The goal of the project is to make a continuous, 90-minute movie of the solar corona–the “crown” surrounding the sun–during the eclipse. It’s quite an undertaking, considering the path of the eclipse will span from Oregon to South Carolina!
The plan for accomplishing this will involve a network of volunteers at 61 stations across the nation taking pictures of the totality phase of the eclipse at their location. Then, the photos will be aligned, the locations and times calibrated, and a single time series will be constructed. This experiment will provide context for other eclipse experiments, as the time evolution of the inner corona is still not well understood, and features such as newly discovered “magnetic bubbles” have not yet had a chance to be studied in the context of a live solar eclipse. In addition, as the project site says, “…the image sequence will provide a beautiful perspective of the solar eclipse as never seen before.”
There are plenty of ways for eclipse enthusiasts across the nation to get involved in Project CATE. The team needs volunteers for the following positions:
- Site organizers and on-the-ground checking: The viewing sites must be checked on the ground, and weather forecasts used to identify sites where cloudy conditions may preclude visibility.
- Equipment definition: Since the specifications for the images needed are rather specific, volunteers are needed to assist in finding available equipment that will accomplish these goals at each site. Equipment coordinators will also need to take into account the utilities available at each location.
- Social media and website development: Since the project will rely heavily on internet communication through all phases of the project, web development and social networking expertise is highly sought after.
- Astronomer selection and training: Since over 60 amatuer volunteers will be needed to carry out the photography for this experiment, trainers will be needed at each site to make sure everyone involved is familiar with the equipment and location.
- Corporate sponsors: Funding for the equipment used by each volunteer observer, and for data collection, is being sought.
- Observers: Finally, the project organizers need people on the ground at each site during the eclipse, gathering images and data! Here is a spreadsheet of the specific viewing locations.
Sounds like an exciting opportunity to get outside and check out a one-in-a-generation event, right? The images and data will be made publically available after the project’s completion, and all project contributors will be acknowledged in research papers citing this experiment. Though volunteers are asked to pay for their own travel expenses during the experiment, organizers hope that they can donate each site telescope to the on-the-ground observers! If you’d like to get involved, please email the project chair Matt Penn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons