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Eclipse Chaser

Eclipse Chaser: Science in the Moon's Shadow

Ilima Loomis, Photography by Amanda Cowan
HMH Books for Young Readers
80 pp
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On 21 August 2017, the Moon glided between Earth and the Sun, creating an eclipse visible across the United States. Millions of people flocked to the path through 13 states along which the Moon would completely cover the disk of the Sun and create a total eclipse—among them were Shadia Habbal, a solar physicist, and her team. In Eclipse Chaser, science reporter Ilima Loomis recounts their exciting yet sometimes anxious expedition to study the solar corona, the Sun’s atmosphere, which is visible only during a total eclipse.

Whereas many solar physicists rely on huge purpose-built telescopes on the ground and in space to study our at times capricious little star, Habbal relies instead on eclipses and portable telescopes to probe the still poorly understood corona, trekking to remote peaks and deserts, where bad weather or a sudden sandstorm can spoil months of preparation.

Loomis deftly explains the mechanics of an eclipse and the questions Habbal is trying to answer. She conveys the homey feel of the expedition, on which Habbal’s sister treats the team to a homemade chicken dinner. In a gratifying nuance, Loomis notes that, for years, Habbal seldom looked at the corona herself, as she was always too busy tending to her instruments and cameras. Only now that the systems run automatically can she turn her eyes skyward.

Eclipse Chaser teems with intriguing photos snapped by Amanda Cowan. Visually, the Sun is the real star of the show. The eerie photos of its gossamer corona stretching out across the darkened sky may make the reader long to see it in person. If he or she is so inclined, the book includes a handy map that shows the paths of total eclipses through 2060.

About the author

The reviewer is a news writer at Science.