Elucidating Coronal Magnetic Waves with Polarized Images of the April 8, 2024 Total Solar Eclipse

Raised of $8,000 Goal
Ended on 3/17/24
Campaign Ended
  • $570
  • 8%
  • Finished
    on 3/17/24

About This Project

I'm planning to obtain high spatial and temporal resolution polarization images of the sun's corona during the April 8, 2024 total solar eclipse. I will be using a new imaging technology that senses the polarization of incident light on a sensor directly without moving parts. The purpose of these observations is to provide additional tests of the magnetic waves theory for the heating of the solar corona to a million degrees C, a long-standing problem in astrophysics.

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What is the context of this research?

The question I am trying to answer is how the sun's corona is heated above 1 million degrees C from the much cooler photosphere. This has been a long-standing problem in solar research. Theories for the heating of the corona include magnetic waves, nanoflares, and magnetic tornadoes. The corona is a highly dynamic structure. Observations of polarized corona light at high spatial and temporal resolution can used to determine the electron density structure and its variation as well as the presence of magnetic waves. These kinds of observations are important in modeling the physics of the corona and testing the competing theories. A total solar eclipse provides the best opportunity for acquiring these data across the full extent of the corona.

What is the significance of this project?

The sun is the only star wherein we can study a corona at the level of detail needed to understand its complex physics. Astronomers conduct measurements of the solar corona at nearly every total solar eclipse in an effort to better understand it. New tools applied to old problems in science can reveal aspects that were previously hidden. The new instrumental tool I propose to employ during the April 8, 2024 solar eclipse has the potential to produce higher spatial and temporal resolution over more of the corona than what has been done previously. If successful, this new way of observing the corona: 1) will help to constrain the competing models of coronal heating, and 2) can then be adopted by other astronomers in future eclipses and refined.

What are the goals of the project?

Although I am a professional astronomer, I also have experience as an astrophotographer. I have also participated in simple scientific experiments at two total solar eclipses (1995 and 2017). I plan to assemble the required equipment and conduct test observations of the moon several weeks prior to the solar eclipse in order to learn its setup and operation. Following that, I will develop a conops for the day of the eclipse.

During the total phase of the eclipse I will collect as many frames as the camera can manage. Following the eclipse I will analyze the images to determine the polarization stokes parameters across the corona and publish the results in a peer-reviewed astronomy journal. I will also publish the processed images online.


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The budget items include the minimum essential equipment to accomplish the goals of this project. The camera is specialized to acquire high spatial and temporal resolution polarization images. It is attached to a small telescope with a sufficiently wide field of view to include a large fraction of the corona on the camera sensor. The telescope is a type of design (Petzval) that minimizes optical distortions on the sensor. The telescope mount includes tracking capability to keep the sun's image centered on the sensor for the duration of the total phase of the eclipse, which is just over 4 minutes for the chosen observing location in Texas. Travel costs are not included, as they are being provided externally.

Endorsed by

This is an exciting idea and I'm thrilled Guillermo Gonzalez is planning on undertaking it.

Project Timeline

The first milestone is acquisition of the required hardware (by early March).

The next one will be night time observations of the moon in mid to late March.

The most important milestone will be the setup and observations on the day of the eclipse on April 8.

Feb 16, 2024

Project Launched

Mar 08, 2024

Complete hardware acquisition

Mar 23, 2024

Test equipment with the moon

Apr 08, 2024

Observe eclipse

Dec 31, 2024

Publish results

Meet the Team

Guillermo Gonzalez
Guillermo Gonzalez

Guillermo Gonzalez

I am a professional astronomer. I have been interested in astronomy since I was a young child. I received my Ph.D. in astronomy at the University of Washington in 1993. I have taught and conducted research in astronomy at multiple colleges and universities including the University of Texas at Austin, Iowa State University, and Ball State University.

I am the co-author of the undergrad astronomy textbook, 'Observational Astronomy, 2nd ed.', published in 2006.

I have published over 90 peer reviewed papers in astronomy journals. My research areas include stellar spectroscopy and various aspects of astrobiology.

Project Backers

  • 4Backers
  • 8%Funded
  • $570Total Donations
  • $142.50Average Donation
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