Do GO - Taking Eclipse Observations

Taking Eclipse Observations

NOTE: The Eclipse tool is expected to be available in the GLOBE Observer app on 07 December 2020, a week before the total solar eclipse in South America on 14 December 2020. The visibility of the tool will be geofenced to the general region of the eclipse, and will only be visible to users in the box bounded by latitude -70 to 3 and longitude -100 to -25. You can still make clouds observations any time, and from anywhere in a GLOBE country.

How should I take observations during the eclipse?

First and foremost, make sure you are being safe when you are observing the eclipse. Looking directly at the Sun is unsafe except during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse (“totality”), when the moon entirely blocks the Sun’s bright face, which will happen only within the narrow path of totality. For more details about how to observe safely, including the appropriate type of eclipse glasses and filters to use, visit the NASA eclipse safety page.

Also, a total solar eclipse is an amazing experience, apart from the interesting science involved. Especially for first-time eclipse observers, we recommend you put down your phone or camera during the precious few minutes of totality itself and just enjoy the experience. The data collection procedures below take that into account, and ask you to make observations and measurements before and after totality, but not during totality itself.

Cloud Type and Cover

Three people observing the clouds.

The simplest way to participate without needing any additional equipment is by making clouds observations using the GLOBE Observer app. Clouds are an important part of the Earth's energy budget, and you may observe changes as the Sun becomes more and more blocked during the eclipse. We would like you to make regular observations for about two hours before and after the point of maximum eclipse. That will cover the period when the moon first starts blocking the Sun, called first contact, all the way to last contact, when the moon moves completely past the Sun and is no longer blocking any portion of it.

Try to make observations about every 15-30 minutes, more often if you wish, especially any time you notice something changing. If you are also measuring air temperature, the special eclipse page on the app will remind you with notifications to make your measurements about every third air temperature measurement. Feel free to add narrative comments to your photos about anything interesting you see happening.

Air Temperature

A person holding a thermometer at arm's length.If you'd like to take it a step further and get a separate thermometer (anything from a simple liquid-filled thermometer to more complex digital models - see more about different types in the FAQs), you can also collect and report data about air temperature on a special page that will be available in the GLOBE Observer app a few days before each future eclipse. Whatever type of thermometer you use, make sure you are taking your measurements in the shade, even if that is just the shadow of your body with the thermometer held at arm's length.

 

Here's the preferred schedule for air temperature measurements:

  • For two hours before and after maximum eclipse, take a measurement every ten minutes.
  • If you can, increase that to every five minutes for the half hour before and after totality or the maximum eclipse at your location.
  • You can also take measurements the day before the eclipse. Ideally, these would be near the time maximum eclipse will occur the following day. For example, if the time of totality for your location is 10:15 am on August 21st, make measurements at about 10:15 on August 20th.

Surface Temperature and Other Variables

There are many other atmospheric variables that could be interesting to observe, but won't have a designated place to enter via the GLOBE Observer app. For example, surface temperature using an infrared thermometer or wind speed and direction using an anemometer (wind speed gauge). These types of observations can always be noted in the comments of a cloud or air temperature measurement. For those willing to put in a bit of extra time to be trained in the GLOBE surface temperature protocol, acquire an infrared thermometer and set up an observation site, you can collect that data during the eclipse and report it through the GLOBE Data Entry app or via the online data entry form. You can find more information about the training requirements on the protocol eTraining page. To measure surface temperature, you will need to complete an introduction to GLOBE, an introduction to the atmosphere protocols generally, and then learn how to do the surface temperature protocol specifically. The training slides can be downloaded by anyone, but you will need to log in with your GLOBE Observer account information to take the short quizzes to get credit for the training and be able to enter data. Especially for educators, you may find the eclipse page on the GLOBE formal education website useful.

More Information and Other Citizen Science Projects During the Eclipse

For general information about eclipses, videos, and much more, visit the NASA eclipse website. The archive page from the 2017 eclipse in North America also has suggestions about how to observe the dimming of daylight, and other activities you can try before or after the eclipse. Apps such as iNaturalist or iSeeChange are also venues for reporting general observations of nature, during the eclipse or any time.

Do Go - Eclipse Obs - FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions - Eclipse Observations

This section is for questions about how to use the app to take observations. If you have an overall app question, not specifically about the Eclipse tool, try the general FAQ page

 

Clouds observations can be made any time! We actually recommend that you make a few observations before the day of the eclipse, so that you know how the process works in the app, and because your cloud observing skills will get better with practice. The full eclipse app will be available about three days before a given eclipse, allowing you to take air temperature measurements in the days leading up to eclipse itself and make sure you are familiar with using your thermometer.

 

There are a variety of thermometers to use for air temperature measurements. The simplest is a liquid-filled thermometer, but inexpensive digital thermometers are also available. Ideally, you should look for a thermometer designed for measuring weather conditions. You do not want to use a medical thermometer, but those advertised as instant-read for cooking may work, especially if they have a digital display. There are also a number of temperature data loggers and external sensors that plug into smartphones, at a variety of price-points. If you have a hand-held weather meter or a mounted weather station at your site, those can also be used for data collection.

Examples of thermometers to use.

GLOBE has lists of suppliers, separated by region (for example, North America and Latin America and Caribbean) that offer a variety of instruments that can be used for measurements.  Note that the GLOBE Program does not endorse any particular supplier, and will identify in a similar manner all companies believed to offer instruments required for GLOBE. You can also read more discussion of the merits of different thermometer types as one of the activity pages on the 2017 NASA eclipse page.

 

You do need an Internet connection to download the app and receive your initial login information via email. After that, all data collection can be done offline. However, don’t forget to send in your observations when you get back to an area with signal or a wifi connection!`

 

The data collection times are just reminders. If you miss one of the notifications, simply take another measurement as soon as you can. The app will record the exact time you entered the measurement, and build the temperature graph as you go.

 

The app is by far the easiest way to participate if you are not already GLOBE trained. If you are interested in completing online eTraining, you can also access data entry via the GLOBE website. Contact us if you have more questions about how to go about doing that.

 

For the most accurate measurements, make your measurements in the shade.

Hand holding a thermometer in the shade.

If a shaded area (or ventilated instrument box) is not available, even holding the thermometer out at arm’s length in your shadow will help. You can check the calibration of your thermometer using an ice water bath, instructions available here. It is also a good idea to familiarize yourself ahead of time with how to use your specific thermometer, and how quickly it reacts to changes in temperature. One way to test this is to take the thermometer between areas with vastly different temperatures, for example from an air conditioned building out into the summer heat, and see how long it takes to stabilize at the new temperature point. A faster reaction time will be better for measuring short-term changes during the eclipse.

 

All of the data will be available, to NASA and to the public, on the GLOBE Visualization System. We have also pulled curated, analysis-ready data sets on the eclipse data page.

 

Yes! The GLOBE program is ongoing, and the GLOBE Observer app is available any time. We encourage you to make Clouds observations between now and the next eclipse, and continue after it’s over. You can also check out the other tools in the GLOBE Observer app: Mosquito Habitat Mapper, Land Cover, and Trees.