Today’s annular eclipse of the sun could do weird things to radio waves

It’s a big day in the world of astronomy for large parts of North America. An annular eclipse (the moon almost covers the entire disco of the sun, leaving only a tiny “ring of fire”) will sweep across parts the US, eastern Mexico, parts of Central America, Colombia, and a swath through Brazil.

Vancouverites will kick things off with a partial eclipse at 8:08 am EDT. Areas of Canada will receive a decent partial solar eclipse are BC, Alberta, and Manitoba. If you’re in Toronto, only 20-30% of the sun will be covered making it unnoticeable unless you use proper protective eyewear. (Please don’t stare at the sun. If you do, you’re an idiot.)

Meanwhile, other scientists will be looking at what happens to radio waves when the moon blocks the sun. From the BBC:

It’s the huge tower in his back yard that gives Todd Baker’s hobby away. Bristling with antennae, the 30m (100ft) structure is taller than many of the mature trees nearby. Baker, an industrial conveyor belt salesman from Indiana, goes not just by his name, but also his call-sign, the short sequence of letters and numbers that he uses to identify himself over the air: W1TOD. He is a member of the amateur radio, or ham radio, community.

“You name it, I’ve been in it,” he says, referring to different radio systems, including citizens band, or CB radio, that he has dabbled with over the years. “Communications were just plain-o cool to me.”

Now, he dabbles in celestial citizen science, too. On 14 October, he and hundreds of other amateur radio enthusiasts will deliberately fill the airwaves during an annular solar eclipse, as it crosses the Americas. They’ll do it again next April, when a full solar eclipse becomes visible from Newfoundland to Mexico.

Why? Solar eclipses are known to affect radio transmissions, and Baker is planning to take part in a giant experiment designed to monitor how cosmic events affect radio broadcasts.

Keep reading. Meanwhile, there’s also a special Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon listening event happening on YouTube to coincide with the eclipse.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37404 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.