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Citizen CATE

The Citizen CATE (Continental-America Telescopic Eclipse) Experiment aims to capture images of the inner solar corona using a network of more than 60 telescopes operated by citizen scientists, high school groups and universities. CATE is currently a joint project involving volunteers from more than 20 high schools, 20 universities, informal education groups, astronomy clubs across the country, 5 national science research labs and 5 corporate sponsors. The goal of CATE is to produce a scientifically unique data set: high-resolution, rapid cadence white light images of the inner corona for 90 minutes.

For the Citizen Continental-America Telescopic Eclipse (CATE) Experiment, scientists, students and volunteers will track the Sun using 35 identical telescopes, software and instrument packages spaced along the 1,000 mile path of totality. Each site will produce more than 1,000 images. This celestial event will begin with a partial solar eclipse and culminate in about 4 minutes of totality. As the Moon’s shadow passes from west to east, each telescope in the Citizen CATE constellation will be ready to take up the observation as the shadow appears on the horizon. The resulting dataset will consist of an unprecedented 60 minutes of continuous, high-resolution, and rapid-cadence images detailing the Sun’s inner corona – a region of the solar atmosphere typically very challenging to image.  Each image will have polarization data, so that we can unfold the three-dimensional structure of the corona.

Dr. Reiff is the regional coordinator for the southwest US (Texas/Oklahoma/Arkansas) and will be enlisting volunteers to observe from specific locations along the center line for maximum coverage.



Timelapse of images from Citizen CATE Experiment at Exmouth on Western Australia's North West Cape, April 20, 2023.

This image was taken by the “Citizen CATE” eclipse expedition to Exmouth, WA, April 20, 2023.  The image is color-coded by the polarization of the light from the corona.  Since the light is polarized perpendicular to the local magnetic field and the field is nearly radial, the colors across the sun from each other are nearly the same.  (The detailed differences will tell us about the Sun’s corona!) We will be sending out more information on our 2024 citizen science program to folks on our “eclipse” email list in the near future - join us here.