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Astronomers and pilots chased a solar eclipse across the heavens on Monday. This occurred while millions of people in Canada, the USA and Mexico gazed into the sky to catch a glimpse of a rare celestial event – a total eclipse of the sun. The sun, moon and Earth aligned to block the view of the sun's disc. NASA equipped its high-altitude WB-57 planes with special sensors and instrumentation to gather information from the unique solar event. Pilots navigated a path within the eclipse, 15,240 meters high, to get a view of the corona – the sun's outer surface. NASA also fired rockets into Earth's upper atmosphere, known as the ionosphere, to try to unravel some of the sun's greatest mysteries.

A total solar eclipse happens when the moon obscures the face of the sun from view. This celestial phenomenon momentarily turns day to night. Totality means the sun's corona becomes a million times dimmer than the sun's disc. This makes it easier for scientists to observe and study the sun. Dr Amir Caspi, a solar astrophysicist, explained that: "Total solar eclipses let us study and see the corona in ways that just would not be possible at any other time and in any other way." Solar eclipses often have confusing effects on nature. They briefly stir nocturnal creatures and make birds and insects fall silent. Motorists can also be affected and should slow down as lighting and visibility conditions change.



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