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NASA volunteer documents eclipse from Burlington to help study sun's atmosphere

A man in sunglasses with long hair and silver beard stands next to a young man with glasses in a parking lot.
Lexi Krupp
Vermont Public
Sean MacBride, right, took photos of totality to contribute to a NASA project. He invited his high school science teacher, Brian Hoffman, to join him during the eclipse. Several of Hoffman's students stopped by throughout the afternoon.

Volunteers from Mexico to Newfoundland used solar telescopes to get a peek at a part of the sun that’s usually hidden on April 8.

Their goal: Take photos of the sun every few seconds during totality to contribute to NASA's Dynamic Eclipse Broadcast initiative. Images taken by volunteers from across North America will eventually be compiled into a time-lapse video.

A finger points at a telescope attachment in a close-up photo.
Lexi Krupp
This solar telescope captured images of the sun's atmosphere every few seconds during totality. MacBride used a solar finder to locate the sun and center the telescope's image.

One of those volunteers was Sean MacBride, who set up behind the sports fields of Burlington High School. He graduated from there, and is now a physics PhD student at the University of Michigan.

"We’ll be able to see these large filaments of extremely hot gas. ... Gas that other solar probes have been able to get close to and pass through, but not actually see on such a long time scale as this — how they evolve. Hopefully we can get maybe an hour or more," MacBride said.

He and other volunteers are processing their photos. They’ll compile those snapshots into a video to help scientists better understand how the sun's surface and its atmosphere interact.

A photo in grayscale shows a dark circle with beams of white and gray coming out from around the edges.
Dynamic Eclipse Broadcast Initiative
Volunteers from Mexico to Newfoundland captured high-resolution photos of the sun’s atmosphere every few seconds during totality. This image was processed from a site in Maine.

"The thing that we’re really interested in is the solar corona — this level of the sun’s atmosphere that we normally cannot see," MacBride said. "With the moon acting as our own personal sun shield, we can see this coronal atmospheric level and we’ll be able to see how it evolves, not only on the three minutes of totality that we get here in Vermont, but hopefully over much, much longer time period with all these other stations scattered over the U.S., Mexico and Canada."

MacBride says the NASA video could be ready soon.

“It feels sort of like a nerdy Super Bowl,” said MacBride. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.


Lexi covers science and health stories for Vermont Public.

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