What eclipses have done for science

Professor Frank Close takes us on a journey through history to uncover the scientific advancements that were made possible by eclipses.

For the first time in nearly 100 years, a total solar eclipse will be visible across the entire contiguous United States. Professor Frank Close, particle physicist, former Christmas Lecturer and eclipse enthusiast takes us on a journey through history to uncover how these celestial events have helped us understand more about our planet, the solar system and the universe beyond.

The science behind solar eclipses is fairly straightforward and occurs when the moon passes between the Sun and Earth, and either partially or fully blocks the Sun. They are not rare, averaging at about two per year, but very infrequently happen in the same place twice.

Throughout history, scientists have taken advantage of these celestial events to accomplish scientific feats, from helping measure the width of the Atlantic ocean and verifying Einstein's theory of general relativity, to allowing NASA to attempt a thermal mapping of Mercury.

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