Did you see the bug total solar eclipse last August? Did you feel it? If not, don’t fret, because while the eclipse did indeed case a palpable sensation, it did so at around 180 miles above the Earth’s surface.
On August 21, 2017 many Americans and Canadians lifted their protected eyes to the heavens to take in a rare total solar eclipse. For an average of two minutes, midday turned a bit darker in spots and downright nighttime in others.
As the event was unfolding scientist Brian Harding of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was in contact with associates in Brazil preparing to measure the physical impact the eclipse had on thermosphere of our planet.
From his location in St. Louis, Missouri, Harding watched the celestial event unfold and forty-five minutes later his Brazilian colleagues measured a fast-moving wave of neutral particles traveling across the thermosphere, the second most outer band of atmosphere at an altitude of 53 to 372 miles above earth. The thermosphere is home to charged plasma particles, so the effects of a wave of much denser particles is of interest to scientists.
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Science News reports that the “wave is produced by the motion of the moon’s shadow, which cooled the atmosphere below it. That cold spot then acted like a sink, sucking in the warmer air ahead of it and causing a ripple in the atmosphere as the cold spot moved across the globe.”
“The eclipse itself is a local phenomenon, but our study shows that it had effects around the world,” says Harding, who released the results of his study on April 26.
Studies of the ionosphere, a layer adjacent and often intertwined with the thermosphere, during previous eclipses also revealed similar waves of neutral particles at about the same altitude of the August 2017 event.