The August 2017 Eclipse in Digital Media
A lot of people are excited about the upcoming solar eclipse that will occur on later this month on August 21st. A total solar eclipse doesn’t happen often; usually the Earth witnesses about one every two years, and it takes a couple hundred years before the event will reoccur over the same location. And this event in particular is special: it’s the first time since 1776 that an eclipse will be “exclusively visible in the contiguous United States.” So it makes sense that the upcoming event is getting a lot of attention.
Across the country, individuals and institutions are getting ready for the event. NASA will be live streaming the eclipse as it occurs, gathering feeds from atmospheric balloons and other coverage around the country. And until then, the live stream website gives a handy count-down for those of us eagerly waiting for the day to arrive. NASA’s Goddard Conceptual Image Lab also created an in-depth video on the science of an eclipse and why this one is unique, and it’s worth the watch.
Then there’s the Citizen CATE (Continental-America Telescopic Eclipse) Experiment, which has partnered with NASA to compile images from 60+ telescopes across the US to create an “unprecedented 90 minutes of continuous, high-resolution, and rapid-cadence images detailing the Sun’s inner corona.” Universities, secondary schools, and independent citizens across the path of the eclipse’s totality will operate these telescopes, making it a large-scale cooperative digital project that will provide scientists with hard-to-acquire data about the sun and its behavior. The website features a map identifying the telescope partners participating in the experiment.
But if you’re really interested in the eclipse, you should navigate over to the Great American Eclipse website, which features multiple digital media projects related to the eclipse event. The creators have put together an Eclipse Story Map using ArcGIS tools to explain what an eclipse is, what is special about this specific eclipse, and detail what locations are the best to see the event in its entirety.
There’s also an interactive web app to help identify what you can expect to see where you’re located. Unfortunately, Milwaukee won’t be able to witness the most exciting part of the solar eclipse — the totality, or when the sun is completely covered by the moon (the yellow pathway in the map below) — but our area will be able to see a partial eclipse (about 75% of the sun will be covered from our vantage point).
However, the most unique eclipse project on the Great American Eclipse website is Michael Zeiler’s population statistics work. Zeiler is using ArcGIS software in combination with 2010 US Census data and an extensive model of the US’s road network to make population behavior predictions, or “where people will gather for the eclipse and in what numbers.”
In an infographic, Zeiler charts the progression of the totality across the US (yellow line) and the major road networks that will be used as people travel to cities where the totality will be visible, estimating not only how the population will move but predicting where individual population groups will travel to. People from Wisconsin, for example, will mostly likely travel to Missouri in order to see the entire event, based on assumptions of population behavior, i.e., that people will choose the closest location to their base and use the quickest route to get there.
The Great American Eclipse website also features additional contextual maps with different focuses, tips on how to view the eclipse safely, and animations of what the event will look like in select areas across the US.
If eclipses interest you, you may also appreciate this live map featured by Esri, the company that provides the ArcGIS data for these (and more) maps. The Solar Eclipse Finder isn’t focused on the August 21st event in particular, but tracks solar eclipse events across the globe, from 1601 to 2200! You can pin your location and see which eclipses have passed over the area, including details like duration, width, and more.
But not only does Esri bring this unique tool to our attention, their highlight of the map explains why they love it, how it was created, and points out how certain design features of the map contribute to its creation of an “evocative experience.” So it’s a handy reference for some ideas on how to embed information into a visually appealing resource.
These are just a few examples of the many digital scholarship projects and digital media tools related to the eclipse that are available online. We encourage everyone to share their own favorites as we get closer and closer to the big day.