Nature, Science

U.S. to Be Treated to a Full Solar Eclipse in August

Americans are going to be treated to a full solar eclipse on August 21, 2017.
Americans are going to be treated to an amazing event on August 21. Photo via Pixabay

On August 21, the moon will come between the earth and the sun, casting a 70-mile shadow from Oregon to South Carolina in what is likely to be the most-viewed solar eclipse ever recorded.

Already being referred to as the “Great American Eclipse,” this will be the first coast-to-coast solar eclipse in 99 years.

“The US only covers 2 percent of the globe, so we get very few eclipses,” said Matthew Penn, an astronomer at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory. “And to have one travel across the entire country is an unprecedented sort of opportunity. It’ll be a heck of a day.”

Penn will be running a project during the eclipse called Citizen CATE (Continental-America Telescopic Eclipse) that will attempt to record and put together a movie of the full eclipse in order to study the sun’s magnetic field. Data will be collected via telescopes, cameras, and computers operated by volunteers across the country.

The eclipse will first be visible from the Oregon coast around 9:05 AM on the 21st, after which a partial eclipse will be viewable across the entire US, including Alaska and Hawaii. Canada, Central America, and northern South America will also get a view at varying points throughout the day.

More than 200 million people currently live within a day’s drive of the eclipse, which means it’s likely to be seen by more people than any other eclipse in recent history.

Scientists are particularly excited about the part of the eclipse during which the sun’s corona, a magnetically energized region just above the sun’s surface, will be visible. Temperatures in this region will climb from 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit to nearly 4 million degrees—and scientists still don’t know why. So the chance to study the area more closely is pretty exciting, particularly since the innermost regions can only be seen during a total solar eclipse.

In addition to various individual Earth residents, 11 NASA spacecraft and more than 50 high-altitude balloons will be taking photos and studying the effects of the eclipse on the earth’s atmosphere.

If you want to see the eclipse, be sure to wear proper viewing glasses to avoid damaging your eyes. You’ll want shades with these specifications, provided by NASA:

  • Certification information with a designated ISO 12312-2 international standard
  • Manufacturer’s name and address easily accessible to assure legitimacy
  • Less than three years old and without scratches or wrinkled lenses
  • NO homemade filters (they’re not as safe as the properly manufactured kind)

Happy solar eclipse viewing!

Business, Eco-friendly, technology

Tesla Grows the Electric Car Market and Sheds Old Revenue Streams

The Tesla Model 3 will cost less than earlier models and introduce electric vehicles to a larger consumer market.
The Tesla Model 3 will cost less than earlier models and introduce electric vehicles to a larger consumer market. Photo: Tesla.

Tesla is probably best known for producing electric cars. They sold 100,000 cars in 2015. Beyond developing and marketing the best-known electric cars, they were doing work for more established automakers.

Tesla spent a lot of time in the early years courting contracts for powertrain and battery production for companies like Daimler and Toyota. Now, as electric cars become a more serious aspect of the auto-industry, those companies are pulling away from their contracts with Tesla in order to focus on in-house production and design.

Although oil prices have been very low lately, electric cars continue to gain a foothold among consumers. Bloomberg predicts that by 2040, one third of new cars sold will be electric, and that such vehicles will make up a quarter of the cars in the world.

This increase in the number of electric cars suggests that larger automakers are finally taking electric cars seriously. It is likely that more of them will show up on the market in the future. For Tesla, that’s something of a double-edged sword, as it will likely mean fewer contracts with other companies, but provide more time to dedicate to in-house development.

Just because Daimler is no longer working with them doesn’t mean that other companies won’t. For companies that haven’t been designing their own in-house electric cars and production line, contracting with Tesla could be a great way to enter this market. Braver manufacturers might decide to go eschew Tesla’s help and attempt to develop proprietary electric vehicles.

Either way, Tesla isn’t struggling. They’re introducing their fourth design, the Model 3, later this month, and have begun delivery of the Model X. The Model 3 is expected to have a smaller sticker price than previous models, which could open their vehicles up to a much larger market.

Climate Change, Green, Sustainability

Paris Climate Talks a Success

Rwanda attended the Paris Climate Talks and called for strong action on climate change to limit temperature increases to below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Rwanda attended the Paris Climate Talks and called for strong action on climate change to limit temperature increases to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Photo: Minirena Rwanada | FlickrCC .

There’s good news to report following the Paris climate talks earlier in December. And that news is that almost 200 countries signed a deal to limit global temperature to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degreed Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels by the end of the 21st century. That’s a somewhat ambitious goal, but an absolutely essential one to keep things in check.

Knowing that this would be an important conference, and possibly the last of its kind if things didn’t go well, France pulled out all the stops to make sure that everyone’s voice was heard, and everyone felt welcome. Previously, talks in Copenhagen in 2009 ended without a resolution, because developing nations couldn’t get larger countries to agree to a plan that they could pull off. This time though, things went a lot better.

Part of that was because everyone realized that this was important, and necessary, and that the future of the entire world rests of finding a way to curb global warming. Even Vladimir Putin made it known behind closed doors that Russia wouldn’t block a deal. That willingness to actually come to the table and work things out instead of being demanding their own way was shared by a number of other countries.

Something else that helped was the United States following it’s cavalry to the rescue model used in World Wars I and II, where we come in at the last minute and turn the tide. In this case that was achieved by joining the High Ambition Coalition, a group founded by the European Union in 2011 including them and a number of island nations dedicated to reducing carbon emissions.

By throwing their weight behind that Coalition, the US gets other major countries to throw in as well, bringing in other developing countries and preventing any kind of significant bloc forming that could derail progress. And, of course, it brought pledges of money to help smaller countries deal with switching to low carbon models.

All in all, it’s good news from Paris. Now it’s time to get to work.

Climate Change, Environmental Hazards, Sustainability

Presidents of U.S. and China Make Climate Change Vows

 A truck transporting coal in Beijing, China. Will a carbon cap and trade improve air quality around the world?
A truck transporting coal in Beijing, China. Will a carbon cap and trade improve air quality around the world? Photo: Han Jun Zeng | FlickrCC.

On Friday, September 25th, as part of a state visit to Washington D.C., President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China met with President Barack Obama to discuss climate change in front of a new summit in Paris this December. Both politicians have taken climate change seriously, and have committed their respective countries to doing something about the issue.

Amidst discussion about a number of other issues, Xi announced nationwide implementation of a carbon cap and trade system in China by 2017, based on a system already in place in several regions. This system would reduce emissions by setting a cap on carbon emissions, but would also allow manufactures to buy and sell the rights to produce carbon emissions.

A carbon cap and trade system would allow industries that find they don’t need to produce as many emissions to sell off their share to other industries that need to produce more, allowing for a more flexible system than simply capping how much carbon a given factory can produce. A similar plan was suggested in the United States in 2010 but failed to make it through Congress.

China is still considered a developing nation and, as such, has largely been left to produce carbon as it sees fit, while other countries, like the U.S. or Britain, face much more resistance from the United Nations.

President Obama would like to see more restrictions on developing nations, which still produce huge amounts of emissions.

China and the U.S. actually produce the most emissions of any countries in the world, but with both stepping up to reduce those emissions, climate change talks might be a little less tense this time around. In fact, President Obama stated that, if the U.S. and China can come to an agreement to limit their own emissions, it should be possible for other countries, developed or otherwise, to do the same.