Published: Thu, December 28, 2017
Research | By Jody Lindsey

Moon's Shadow Created Waves During the August Total Solar Eclipse

Moon's Shadow Created Waves During the August Total Solar Eclipse

However, previous geographically limited observations have had difficulty detecting these weak waves within the natural background atmospheric variability, and the existence of eclipse-induced ionospheric waves and their evolution in a complex coupling system remain controversial.

Just about everybody and their grandma spent August 21st, 2017 looking up at the sky wearing a pair of cheap paper glasses, trying to see the Great American Eclipse, but few people realized that they were witnessing a landmark moment in scientific history.

Researchers from the University of Tromsø and the Haystack Observatory of MIT made a decision to study the effects the grand eclipse had on our planet. These sensors can accurately measure the density of the atmosphere, allowing the researchers to use them to track air currents.

Researchers added that the impact was similar to atmospheric "bow waves", like the outermost waves of a ship's wake.

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The story was published online December 4 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. In addition to blocking out the light, the moon also blocks the sun's heat, meaning the atmosphere quickly cools inside the eclipse shadow. At altitudes where water vapor and ozone can efficiently convert the sun's ultraviolet radiation to heat, the sudden temperature change was expected to cause bow waves.

"The August eclipse provided a great opportunity to examine this", said study lead researcher Shun-Rong Zhang, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Haystack Observatory. "That was the surprise we found. we had a large coverage and our system is sensitive enough to be able to see these smaller variations". Noting that the waves weren't unsafe in any way, he told the website: "Similar bow waves, including stern waves, occur also when airplanes travel through the air at the speed of sound".

Their analysis revealed that the moon's shadow created bow waves with front shocks, as well as stern waves, he said. "That was really very interesting to us". Generally, the Geomagnetic storms can affect the satellite system. Researchers checked data from 2,000 receivers across the United States.

When the solar eclipse occurred in August, Boston University electrical and computer engineering professor Joshua Semeter told the university that bow waves, also known as stern waves, were included in the phenomena that his colleagues and he were hoping to discover during the eclipse. "Mother Nature is providing us a nice experimental environment", he further added.

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