Eclipse Mural

Every three years or so, a total solar eclipse—the covering of the sun’s surface when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun—can be viewed on land somewhere in the world. This represents the only time to really study the sun’s corona, which is the white light you see surrounding the sun in the mural photo. That is important because the corona contains many clues to understanding how the sun functions, but it can be viewed only when the sun’s surface is covered.

The mural is a photo of such an eclipse that occurred over Mexico in 1970. There is a different eclipse photo on the accompanying exhibit fact sheet; that one was taken by NCAR scientists in Hawaii in 1991. That difference reflects the time in the sun’s activity cycle at the time of the eclipse: the corona wraps around the sun when the sun is in a period of high activity, but concentrates at the poles when its activity is at a low point of its cycle. A better understanding of the sun, and thus the stars beyond our solar system, will provide new information about climate cycles, help prevent interruptions of radio signals in our atmosphere, and perhaps help us decipher some of the mysteries of the universe.

To learn more about the division at NCAR that studies solar-terrestrial (sun-earth) connections, called the High Altitude Observatory (HAO), go to http://www.hao.ucar.edu/.

To learn more about a current HAO project involved in identifying planets beyond our solar system, the STARE (Stellar Astrophysics and Research on Exoplanets) study, check out http://www.hao.ucar.edu/public/research/stare/stare.html.