On Jan. 30, 2014, beginning at 8:31 a.m EST, the moon moved between NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, and the sun, giving the observatory a view of a partial solar eclipse from space. Such a lunar transit happens two to three times each year. This one lasted two and one half hours, which is the longest ever recorded. NASA/SDO

NASA wants you to be an eclipse scientist

Instead of just being a bystander during the upcoming solar eclipse, NASA wants you to turn this once-in-a-lifetime experience into a learning experience for you and you children or grandchildren.

Unless you have spent the past month in a coma, spelunking in a deep cave or roughing it in the back of beyond where there’s no Internet and television reception, you know that there’s going to be a solar eclipse on Aug. 21.

All of North America will experience at least a partial eclipse that day, NASA said. Depending on where you live in the United States, the moon will completely or partially block out the sun for a brief period that day as the eclipse’s path crosses the US diagonally from Oregon to South Carolina, NASA reported. Crossing the country from Oregon to South Carolina over the course of an hour and a half, 14 states will experience night-like darkness for approximately two minutes in the middle of the day. The eclipse will start at 10:15 a.m. PDT off the coast of Oregon and leave the shore of South Carolina about 2:50 p.m. EDT.

Everyone has gone to PoT

According to CNN, the “Path of Totality” will only be 70 miles wide. Given all of the hype and merchandising surrounding the event, good luck finding a place to stay, eat or even stand inside the PoT zone.

Indeed, the Governor Inslee’s office has been sending out emails cautioning people to brace for “unprecedented traffic problems on the days surrounding the Aug. 21 total eclipse.

“A total eclipse won’t be visible from the West Coast again until 2045, when it will cross northern California ,” the email stated. “There is no sure way to predict how many Washington drivers will travel to see the total eclipse. What officials do know is that hotels, campgrounds and other types of lodging along the path of totality were booked months — and sometimes years — in advance.

“Officials also assume that people who couldn’t secure lodging for the eclipse will drive into the path of totality on the morning of Monday, Aug. 21. And once the eclipse is done, return traffic is expected to be heavy into Tuesday … The Washington State Department of Transportation is telling motorists to prepare for significant traffic delays similar to those encountered during a large winter storm. Or imagine Seattle traffic after a Seahawks game, on top of traffic backed up from a road-construction project,” the email warned.

Consequently, many people in Kitsap County will probably settle for the safe and sane thing to do: watching the full eclipse on TV and maybe watching the partial eclipse for real.

But why just settle for being a spectator? Why not join NASA and become an eclipse scientist that day?

Three reasons to join NASA

First, NASA seems likely have the best primary coverage of the eclipse. It will be airing a four-hour show, “Eclipse Across America,” starting at 12 noon EDT (8 a.m. PDT). Just click on www.nasa.gov/eclipselife and you’ll be directed to the site. Viewers will see images “captured before, during, and after the eclipse by 11 spacecraft, at least three NASA aircraft, more than 50 high-altitude balloons, and the astronauts aboard the International Space Station – each offering a unique vantage point for the celestial event,” according to the site.

Second, NASA is inviting eclipse viewers around the country to participate in a nationwide science experiment by collecting cloud and air temperature data and reporting it via their phones using GLOBE Observer, a free, easy-to-use app that guides citizen scientists through data collection. The Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment program is a NASA-supported research and education program that encourages students and citizen scientists to collect and analyze environmental observations. GLOBE Observer is a free, easy-to-use app that guides citizen scientists through data collection. It’s available at both the Google Play Store and Apple iTunes. Download the app and register to become a citizen scientist. The app will then tell you how to make the observations. (You will need to obtain a thermometer to measure air temperature.)

“No matter where you are in North America, whether it’s cloudy, clear or rainy, NASA wants as many people as possible to help with this citizen science project,” wrote Kristen Weaver, deputy coordinator for the project. “We want to inspire a million eclipse viewers to become eclipse scientists.”

Your observations, along with the others’, will be recorded on an interactive map.

Third, NASA provides a trusted site for information about such topics as how to safely photography the eclipse. Most important, it discusses how to safely view the eclipse in order to avoid temporary — or even permanent — eye damage, including a link to the American Astronomical Society’s “Reputable Vendors of Solar Filters and Viewers.” The AAS site tells you which products meet the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard for such products as well as which ones are made right here in the U.S.

According to the AAS site, “these include companies with which members of the AAS Solar Eclipse Task Force have had prior … experience as well as companies whose products have been certified safe by authorities we recognize and whose certification we have confirmed to be genuine …”

— Terryl Asla is a reporter for the Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at tasla@soundpublishing.com.

NASA and the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program have released the GLOBE Observer App for iOS and Android. It encourages the public to make environmental observations that complement NASA satellite observations. NASA/David C. Bowman

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