I’ve got Eclipse Fever!


Credits for the animations: NASA Visualisation Studio

When did Miho’s Eclipse Fever start?

Dr. Miho Janvier, Solar & Space Physicist, got eclipse fever when she witnessed her first total solar eclipse in July 2019 in Argentina. As a solar physicist, she was in awe of the magical moment when the Sun got entirely covered by the Moon and she was able to see its atmosphere with the naked eye. It still gives her goosebumps anytime she sees pictures of the eclipse!

Thankfully, she loves documenting her excursions so this video walks through each part of her journey to Argentina and her excitement seeing the total solar eclipse. There was another total solar eclipse in South America on December 14, 2020… but unfortunately the pandemic squashed her plans to attend that one in person. But who knows, maybe we’ll get to virtually tag along with Dr. Janvier on a trip to see an upcoming eclipse in Antarctica?!!

What is a total solar eclipse?

Check out this part of the video for some excellent animations explaining solar eclipses.

A solar eclipse happens when the moon is in-between the Earth and the sun. The position
of the moon blocks the sunlight so that a shadow appears on the surface of the Earth. There are different types of eclipses, but the one we call a total solar eclipse is when the moon completely covers the suns surface. It happens around every 1.5 years somewhere on Earth.

The moon’s shadow is relatively small, so you really have to be in the right location to get into the full shadow – or what is called the “path of totality”.

Why are Solar Physicists interested in solar eclipses?

A total solar eclipse is a magnificent phenomenon. For Solar Physicists, a solar eclipse is much more than that. (check out great images in the video starting here)

When the moon covers the entire surface of the sun, it reveals the sun’s atmosphere (aka the Sun’s corona). The Solar Corona is a fascinating place. This is where we see the sun being really active. There are flares that happen, and they release a lot of energy. Also, the magnetic field is being filled with hotter and hotter plasma so it reveals some magnificent structures.

Some of the flares will send storms in space. This is why Dr. Janvier really loves to study solar storms, because they reveal how active our star is, and how it impacts the whole solar system!

Total Eclipse Adventure – July 2019

At the beginning of July 2019, Miho traveled to San Juan, Argentina. Luckily, it was a beautiful blue sky day for the conference and eclipse. The site they drove out to in order to view the total solar eclipse, almost felt like being on Mars.

After an exploratory hike, she found a really nice place to watch the eclipse with some colleagues from the conference. The conference organizers had booked the entire site, so there were people spread all around in different viewing spots. Miho lucked out finding a spot with a really nice view of the valley, and the sun.

As solar totality approached, they had to start putting on layers as the temperature dropped. It almost felt like sunset, even as the sun was still high in the sky. The sensations and changes that felt like being on a sunset on the beach that accompanied the approach of the solar eclipse was really cool to experience. As the moon started covering the sun, it felt a bit like when a fire dies and you see the red ring.

When the total eclipse finally happened, the entire valley was cheering!

In the video, you can hear Miho’s excitement and the cheers from around the valley. It’s such an exciting and awe inspiring event! She was even able to see the solar corona! As she said, “it is so beautiful”.

Reflecting on the total solar eclipse, especially since it was her first one, she found it really magical! Technically, the first one she witnessed was in 1999 but it was so cloudy where she was viewing in Paris she didn’t get to see much. Getting a full view on a cloudless day, she was completely in awe. Sharing it with colleagues who all study the sun, and that the ones with her also all study the corona, and to look at the corona with the naked eye… being able to see the structures that they study in such a beautiful place together, gave her chills.

Now she understands why someone can have Eclipse Fever, and she definitely has it now! Even as the eclipse she saw was ending, it didn’t feel like long enough and she already wanted to go see another one. If you’re ever able to see an eclipse, she REALLY recommends it!

The actual sunset + partial eclipse was pretty incredible to view as well (check it out here)

After the total solar eclipse

Heading back after totality is finished, the sun is still partially covering the sun but it’s already starting to get warmer. Not sure how many degrees were lost, but it was pretty intense. With the change of light, it’s like the difference in looking at a sunset and sunrise within the space of a few minutes. Overall, it is over a few hours but the most exciting part is a few minutes before and after totality.

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