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Here Comes the (Disappearing) Sun

Upcoming solar eclipses are harbingers of good fortune for citizen science.
Authored by
Greg Hayes
Marketing & Content Coordinator

These next few months are an exciting time for skywatchers! If you somehow haven't heard the hype, the U.S. will soon be treated to two big solar eclipses: the October 2023 annular eclipse, with a "ring of fire" sweeping from Oregon to Texas, and then a total eclipse in April 2024, with a path of totality from Texas to Maine.

At Ideum, we're excited about all this for a few reasons, beyond the obvious geekery that makes us who we are. Our studio stands a few hundred meters from the center of the October eclipse's path — which, on the cosmic scale, is so close as makes no nevermind — an amazing opportunity for us to do a little science and have a little fun. (How close will you be? Check out Xavier M. Jubier's interactive eclipse maps.)

But even more exciting, Ideum will be participating in a pair of citizen-science initiatives for the 2024 total eclipse, based on experimental mobile applications Ideum developed for past eclipses that have been updated, adapted, and refined by our partners with new project goals.

A team from Ideum traveled to Argentina and captured the 2019 total eclipse with the Eclipse Camera app.

The new and exciting SunSketcher project aims to improve our measurements of the size and shape of the Sun, whose size is currently only known with an accuracy of about ±50 km, and you can help. Download the Sunsketcher smartphone app (when available) and set it up to capture images and data of the 2024 eclipse to help narrow this range to just a few kilometers. This in turn can help us understand what forces are at work inside the Sun. Read more about how SunSketcher works here.  

Eclipse Megamovie 2024, sponsored by NASA, will be recruiting photographers, programmers, and other volunteers to both create a new body of visual data and then help analyze both the 2017 and 2024 eclipse data. Their new goals include further study of the Sun's corona and understanding how the Sun can change over the span of hours and years.

Watch then-sponsor Google's video about the 2017 Eclipse Megamovie (~15 min).

After the 2019 eclipse, the project released the Eclipse Megamovie software on GitHub and made it open source. While we no longer update the app or offer mobile app development, Ideum continues to offer custom software development for our tables and for exhibits we design.

Both of the new eclipse projects are still under development, but we'll send up a flare when we get more news about how you can participate. Meanwhile, now's a good time to start planning ahead for both celestial events. Check out NASA's eclipse resources for information and tips, download NASA's festive eclipse maps and artwork, and sign up for Ideum's newsletter for semimonthly stories — including eclipse project updates and other news from Ideum — delivered right to your inbox.