By Tim Williams

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A rare solar eclipse will put on an amazing show in the skies.

While you’re looking up, scientists will be using the opportunity to study its effects here on Earth.

“We want to know how the Earth is responding to the solar eclipse, to this decrease in solar light that’s entering the Earth’s atmosphere,” says Dr. Nikki Viall, a NASA solar physicist.

A total solar eclipse hasn’t traveled from coast to coast in the U.S. in 99 years.

“The fact that this one is going from coast to coast — it comes in through Oregon, goes across the United States, exits out of South Carolina — that’s amazing,” Viall says.

This is a unique chance for Viall to collect data only available during eclipses.

“This is actually really useful, that the sun is being blocked out behind the moon, because the photosphere, this main body of the sun, is so much brighter than the atmosphere around it that we usually can’t see the atmosphere around the sun,” she says.

But how could this impact weather on Earth — the tides, temperatures and winds?

“What I study are the solar atmosphere, the solar corona,” Viall says. “There are different parts of the solar corona. There’s what we call active regions, these are concentrations of intense magnetic fields. When it interacts with the Earth, it can lead to some very beautiful things like the northern lights and the southern lights. It can also disrupt spacecraft, it can also interfere with our GPS, things like that.”

And while NASA scientists like Viall are excited for the data they’ll collect, many of them are going to enjoy it just like the rest of us.

“To actually get to see it live and in person with my naked eye, is just going to be… I’m so excited,” she says.

NASA wants you to be one of its scientists during the eclipse. All you need is a thermometer and a smart phone. CLICK HERE for more information on that.

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Tim Williams


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