A dramatic image of the sun at ‘solar maximum’ will await eclipse hunters April 8, 2024, during the total solar eclipse in North America.
Only those within a 200 km wide path of totality can glimpse the Sun’s corona – the warmer outer atmosphere – with their naked eyes during totality. Only during the exact moment of totality, when the moon completely obscures the sun, can you see with the naked eye. In all other cases, precautions must be taken. It is a feast for the eyes, regardless of the level of solar activity latest predictions When the sun reaches the peak of its current cycle in 2024, it appears the corona will now be at its largest and spiciest, just in time for totality. Because the cameras have improved greatly since the last solar maximum in 2012, unique images will be possible.
Related: Solar maximum will arrive earlier and last longer than previously expected, scientists say
REMEMBER to NEVER watch the sun straight away. To view this safely solar eclipse you should use sunscreens at all times. Only during the exact moment of totality, when the moon completely obscures the sun, can you see with the naked eye. In all other cases, precautions must be taken. Observers will need to wear solar eclipse glasses, and cameras, telescopes and binoculars will need to have solar filters placed in front of their lenses.
Solar maximum versus solar minimum
According to a rack According to solar physicists at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC), the sun will now peak its current activity cycle between January and October 2024, a year earlier than previous estimates.
The sun has a cycle of roughly 11 years, during which it rises and falls between solar minimum and solar maximum. It is a cycle driven by the sun’s magnetic field. The number of sunspots the surface shows how scientists figure out what stage of the cycle the sun is in.
How the solar maximum affects the corona
‘A total solar eclipse offers a unique opportunity to view the sun the atmosphere of the sunthe corona, with the naked eye,” said Dr. Ryan Frencha solar physicist at the National Solar Observatory (NSO) in Boulder, Colorado and the author of The Sun: Beginner’s guide to our local star, in an email to Space. “But the corona is always changing and its appearance depends on the level of solar activity.”
During totality in a total solar eclipse, the naked eye sees the difference between the two extremes, which is clear. “At a solar minimum, when the sun is quiet, the structure in the corona is confined to the equators,” says French. “Long, stretching ‘streamers’ and visibly emanating from the sun.” However, during a maximum eclipse, hunters can expect to see some activity in the corona that extends beyond the equators and up to the poles. “If you see an eclipse during this active period, the sun’s corona may resemble the traditional ‘star shape’ you probably drew as a child, with streamers pointing in all directions,” says French.
How solar maximum affects prominences
Another thing that tends to become more apparent during a total solar eclipse during solar maximum are the prominences around the edge of the moon. To the naked eye it is a bright pink-red loop. Prominences are tangles of magnetic material that are anchored to the Sun’s surface and can last for days. However, during solar maximum, visibility may be different. “Normally you find them along the sun’s equator, but at solar maximum you can see things everywhere,” said Amir Caspi, chief scientist at the Southwest Research Institute, who leads an experiment with one of NASA’s WB-57 high-altitude aircraft to study the corona most from above the Earth’s atmosphere. “One of the things you’ll see in 2024 is a lot more things in the north and south polar regions of the sun that you didn’t see in 2017.” In 2017, most prominences were located along the equator. This time, not only are they more likely, but they can also appear anywhere.
Related: Solar Cycle: What is it and why does it matter?
The difference between the sun during total solar eclipses is easiest to see by comparing images from expert eclipse photographers Fred Espenak. For example, this picture In Chile, near the last solar minimum on July 2, 2019, the corona is seen more or less at its smallest, with defined streamers at the poles and few prominences. Fast forward four years to April 20, 2023, and the solar eclipse is closer to solar maximum, this time from a cruise ship off the coast of Western Australiawhere the corona is much larger and more clearly visible, with prominences everywhere.
Why 2024 will be different from 2023
Although the most recent total solar eclipse showed an enlarged corona, it was more difficult to see visually, which will be the case in 2024. That’s because it’s a hybrid solar eclipseWhere the moon was just big enough to cover the sun, which took just over a minute. “The corona far away is faint, and close to the disk it is bright,” specialist from Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s School of Physics & Applied Physics and co-chair of the Southern Illinois Eclipse 2017-2024 Steering Committee told Bob Baer. Space.com. “We saw that again in Australia, where visually to me the moon almost looked like it wasn’t completely covering the sun’s disk, so it was super bright all the way to the sun’s surface.” It also didn’t get particularly dark during totality. None of that will happen in North America on April 8, when the moon approaches Soil and appear larger than the sun. Consequently, the moon will easily cover the sun, and totality will last much longer – up to 4 minutes and 28 seconds – and the sky will appear much darker. The corona will be slightly larger, easier to see and visible for much longer.
Related: From which states will the April 2024 solar eclipse be visible?
How to optimize your view of the corona
In general, the best way to get an excellent view of the corona during totality is to use binoculars or a small telescope. However, for this particular solar eclipse – where the corona is expected to be this large – the best way to see it is to look at it with the naked eye. Only then can you see its magnitude. An easy way to get better vision than everyone else is to adjust your eyes before totality, either by using an eye patch on one eye (and then recreating it and closing the other eye during the totality) or by wearing a pair of red welded eye patches. goggles (which you take off when totality begins).
Related: How to photograph a solar eclipse
Once you’ve looked at the corona and appreciated its size, there is no better close-up in astronomy than the view of the corona through binoculars or a small telescope. The first is easy enough to leave around your neck (but just make sure you don’t point any optical equipment at the unobscured sun; you’ll need solar filters for that).
Either way, the sight of the solar eclipse on April 8 should spur millions of Americans to reach the path of totality. Those who don’t will experience a partial solar eclipse and miss an extraordinary sight entirely.