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SDSC Helps Scientists Predict Corona Structure of Solar Eclipse

Published 03/29/2006

Using San Diego Supercomputer Center's (SDSC) high-performance computing tools, scientists from the Solar Physics Group at SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation) were able to model with improved accuracy the energy flow of an upcoming total solar eclipse. The simulation used photospheric magnetic field data collected weeks before the actual event to predict the state of the solar corona when the moon moves directly between the sun and the Earth on March 29, 2006.

In the past, SAIC used a crude model of the corona with greatly simplified calculations. Using high-performance computing solutions from SDSC and NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), researchers at SAIC were able to simulate a better estimation of the corona density enabling researchers to observe the effects of coronal heating, the conduction of heat and other factors. SDSC's keen focus on data-intensive computing ensured that the research team received accurate results in a timely fashion.

The March 2006 solar eclipse that is the focus on this simulation was visible in the northern hemisphere within a narrow corridor from the equator in the Atlantic Ocean, sweeping northeast across Northern Africa and the Mediterranean to Turkey, finally ending at sunset in central Asia. Although partial eclipses are common, total eclipses are rare because they require the tilted orbits of the sun, moon and Earth to line up exactly so that the moon obscures the sun completely. The last total solar eclipse occurred November 2003 and the next will appear in 2008.

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