Eclipse used to help solve mystery

March 29, 2006 at 3:44 PM
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., March 29 (UPI) -- Scientists from around the world journeyed to areas from Brazil to Mongolia early Wednesday morning to view a solar eclipse -- and try to solve a mystery.

As the moon's shadow blocked Earth-bound views of the sun, the scientists studied the glow of sun's corona -- the outermost region of the sun's atmosphere visible as a white halo during a solar eclipse.

"It was even more fabulous than we expected," said Jay Pasachoff, professor of astronomy at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., after witnessing his 42nd solar eclipse. "All the technical equipment worked perfectly, the corona shone brightly, and the activity around sunspots on the eastern edge of the sun provided an even more dramatic show than predicted."

Pasachoff, chairman of the International Astronomical Union's Working Group on Eclipses, led dozens of scientists and students to Greece to record images from the rare event.

They and other astronomers are capturing data over many eclipses in an effort to understand why the sun's corona is hotter than the sun itself.

The next total eclipse of the sun occurs in 2008 over a narrow path from northernmost Canada, over Greenland and Russia, to central China.

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