NASA Eclipse Soundscapes Project Will Capture How the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse Affects Nature

By | February 23, 2024

While people will enjoy the majesty of the total solar eclipse that will sweep across several US states on April 8, 2024, the celestial event will also be experienced by flora and fauna.

That’s why the NASA-funded Eclipse Soundscapes Project will observe and collect the sights and sounds of the total solar eclipse so humanity can better understand how such events can impact nature. The agency is also calling on the public to join this effort.

“Eclipses are often thought of as a visual event — something you see,” Kelsey Perrett, communications coordinator at the Eclipse Soundscapes Project, said in a statement. “We want to show that eclipses can be studied in a multisensory way, using sound, feeling and other forms of observation.”

Related: How to photograph a solar eclipse with a smartphone 2024 — 8 tips from an expert

Total solar eclipses like the one that will occur on April 8 are caused by the Earth, Moon, and Sun aligning in such a way that the Moon passes directly in front of our star, blocking the Sun’s disk from our vantage point. But because the moon is relatively close to Earth, its position in the sky varies from location to location, meaning eclipses can only be seen in certain areas. Even in areas where the eclipse is visible, the degree to which the moon covers the sun can vary.

Areas where the Sun is completely covered by the Moon during the solar eclipse are said to be on the ‘path of totality’. In these areas the sky will darken; stars may even be visible in the sky. It will appear as if dusk has fallen, with the darkening of the sun also causing the temperature to drop.

This ‘false twilight’ of the solar eclipse is associated with strange animal behavior, such as birds stopping their singing, insects such as locusts and crickets stopping their chirping, and bees returning early to their hives.

while the sun is blocked by the moon, the light takes on a crepuscular quality

while the sun is blocked by the moon, the light takes on a crepuscular quality

As the 2024 solar eclipse moves across the sky above the heads of approximately 30 million people in North America, it provides an opportunity to engage in fascinating citizen science and explore how the event is tricking wildlife into changing their usual daily routines .

The Eclipse Soundscapes Project mimics a similar survey that followed the 1932 total solar eclipse, which crossed the northeastern reaches of the US and Canada; but while that experiment collected about 500 observations from the public, this new venture is more ambitious.

The Eclipse Soundscapes Project will use modern technology to collect multisensory observations, such as audio recordings, during the solar eclipse, and participants will also create written accounts of what is seen, heard or felt during the event. One of the goals of the project is to see how animals that are awake during the day respond to the eclipse, as opposed to animals that are active at night. For example, the researchers behind the project want to know whether diurnal or nocturnal animals become more or less vocal during the solar eclipse.

“The more audio data and observations we have, the better we can answer these questions,” Perrett added. “Contributions from participating scientists will allow us to delve deeper into specific ecosystems and determine how the eclipse affected each of them.”

Hanging from a tree branch is a plastic bag containing an audio recording deviceHanging from a tree branch is a plastic bag containing an audio recording device

Hanging from a tree branch is a plastic bag containing an audio recording device

The organizers of the Eclipse Soundscape Project are looking for participants of all levels to get involved in data collection, whether they are on the path of totality on April 8 or not.

Citizen scientists participating in the Eclipse Soundscape Project will use a low-cost audio recording device equipped with a micro SD card, called an “AudioMoth”, to record the “sounds” of the eclipse. Other participants may be “observers” documenting the multisensory data they experience as the eclipse passes overhead.

The project also has roles designed to be accessible to people who are blind or partially sighted.

Other roles in the project include ‘data analysts’ who can analyze audio data after the eclipse and ‘learners’ who can study eclipses online, with all roles awarded a downloadable certificate.

Related stories:

– What is a solar eclipse?

– Buying guide for solar eclipse glasses

— How to look at the sun safely (and what to look out for)

“When it comes down to it, answering our scientific questions about how eclipses affect life on Earth depends entirely on the data that people voluntarily contribute,” Perrett concluded. “Our participants, including our project partners and facilitators, allow us to cover the entire eclipse path and collect much more data than would be possible for just one small team.”

If you would like to learn more about the Eclipse Soundscapes project or find out how you can get involved, please visit this website. And if you’re not lucky enough to live in a state where the total solar eclipse will occur, you can watch the total solar eclipse live here on Space.com.

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