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Scientists See Glimpses of Sun's Corona

Photonics Spectra
Apr 1998
Researchers from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., and other institutions aimed new detectors at the sun's corona during the Feb. 26 solar eclipse.

Scientists hope to use the information gathered to improve predictions about coronal mass ejections that launch solar storms, interfering with communications and electric power grids on Earth.

The corona, or outer atmosphere of the sun, is a million times dimmer than the solar disc. It is normally observed using a coronagraph that blacks out the disc, although the sunlight scattered by the Earth's atmosphere masks the very faint coronal light. Therefore, a naturally occurring eclipse provides scientists with ideal conditions.

Engineers from the center designed a custom telescope employing a 2048 × 2048-pixel charge-coupled device camera from PixelVision Inc. in Beaverton, Ore. The images provide a better measure of the electron density of the corona than could previously be captured by photographic film-based instruments.

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