On August 21, a shadow will fall across North America—and we can’t wait. Towns along the eclipse path of totality are eagerly making plans to accommodate the thousands of visitors expected to trek out for the celestial marvel.
NASA scientists are finalizing their eclipse plans too. And if you’re going to be anywhere near the eclipse path, they need your help. Yes, you. All of North America will experience at least a partial eclipse, so if you’re reading this in Canada, Mexico, or the United States, you can (and should) become a NASA citizen scientist.
“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,” Kristen Weaver, deputy coordinator for the project said in a statement. “We want to inspire a million eclipse viewers to become eclipse scientists.”
NASA scientists are using the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program to gather temperature and cloud reports from across the continent as the Moon briefly blocks out the sun’s light and heat. Researchers hope to quantify the atmospheric changes that occur when the eclipse crosses the country. Or, as the GLOBE eclipse program puts it: “How cool is the eclipse?”
By observing changes in cloud cover and/or taking temperature measurements and uploading the data to GLOBE via their app, you can help NASA researchers determine exactly how cool this spectacle really is. The data you collect will be made available to researchers at NASA and beyond. You can download the free GLOBE Observer app for iOS or Android here.
If you really enjoy making observations during the eclipse, the app also offers the chance to contribute to two other projects—observing clouds and mapping mosquito habitats.
And if taking air and temperature measurements doesn’t sound like a blast, there are other citizen science projects in the works that you can contribute to. One will station 68 identical telescopes across the country to make detailed observations of the sun’s corona. Another will have students send up balloon observatories along the path, and a third plans to create a slow motion movie by stitching together images of the eclipse taken all across the country.
You know you’re going to be watching. Why not help do some science while you’re at it?