Stray Signals

Solar Eclipse Inspires Cool Science Experiments In NJ: Ham Radio, Sunspots

ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — While some stargazers are preparing to party when the “Great American Solar Eclipse” takes place on Aug. 21, others plan to use the rare astronomical event to conduct some seriously cool science experiments.

The New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) in Newark explained why the solar eclipse – which will be partially visible in New Jersey from 1 to 3 p.m. – is so enticing to researchers looking to understand more about the world we live in.

“On August 21, a total solar eclipse will cause the shadow of the moon to traverse the United States from Oregon to South Carolina in just over 90 minutes. In addition to the stunning visual display, the eclipse will have a significant impact on the Earth’s ionosphere. An electrically charged portion of the atmosphere between 37 to 620 miles in altitude, the ionosphere is formed when ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun strips electrons from neutral particles in the upper atmosphere. Therefore, the ionosphere will weaken in the region where the moon’s shadow blocks UV rays from entering the atmosphere. This will also affect radio signals passing through the ionosphere, as the electrical properties of the ionosphere will alter radio wave paths.”

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The solar eclipse will be visible across the United States for the first time since 1918. If the weather holds up, it should be visible across New Jersey, experts say.

But don’t expect to get a total solar eclipse that will be much more visible in the south, according to the National Weather Service. However, locals should prepare themselves anyway.

The National Weather Service says New Jersey will likely get what’s considered a “partial” solar eclipse — meaning that we’ll see 70 to 75 percent of the sun covered by the moon — that will start shortly after 1 p.m. and reach its peak just before 3 p.m.

Here are two experiments that NJIT faculty members plan to carry out on Aug. 21.


“Amateur (ham) radio operators will help study these effects through large-scale citizen science radio experiments using signals they transmit on shortwave bands,” NJIT administrators said. “These experiments are coordinated by HamSCI: the Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation, an organization aimed at bringing together the ham radio and space physics communities.”

“HamSCI is led

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