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The Citizen CATE 2024 Next-Generation Experiment for Distributed Eclipse Observations

Presentation #105.10 in the session Ambient Solar Atmosphere Posters.

Published onSep 18, 2023
The Citizen CATE 2024 Next-Generation Experiment for Distributed Eclipse Observations

Total solar eclipses (TSEs) are rare chances to study the corona in ways not feasible at other times. However, observing windows at single, fixed sites are only a few minutes long, which limits science to non-time-dependent questions. “Chasing” the Moon’s shadow enables longer-term observing periods, and mitigates risk of bad observing conditions in any one location.The Citizen CATE 2024 next-generation experiment will deploy 35+ near-identical stations along the 2024 April 8 TSE path, spanning from Texas to Maine, to observe more than an hour of totality as the shadow crosses each site in sequence. Jointly funded by both NASA and NSF, CATE 2024 leverages lessons learned from the original pioneering experiment in 2017 (Penn et al. 2020) to enhance both the science and user experience, deploying upgraded procedures and equipment including new wide-field, polarization-sensitive cameras to observe the linearly-polarized corona out to ~3 solar radii over the entire duration of U.S. totality. Each CATE station will be identically instrumented and run with identical procedures, capturing a prescribed exposure sequence to generate ~1 frame per second of high-dynamic-range (HDR) images of the corona; images will be calibrated, co-aligned, and stacked from all stations to produce observations of coronal dynamics (flows, waves, etc.).CATE 2024’s unparalleled dataset will provide a deeper understanding of several aspects of the corona, particularly the middle corona (1.5–3 RS) that defines the connectivity between surface magnetic structures and the outflowing solar wind. The transition between the lower (<1.5 RS) and upper corona (>3 RS) magnetic morphology regimes is not well understood, but CATE 2024’s extended observing window will allow middle coronal features to sufficiently evolve such that we can observe changing coronal topology and measure the nascent solar wind flow, and HDR polarization measurements allow tracing detailed connectivity through the cusp region and permit 3D rendering and disambiguation of fine structure.CATE 2024 is a major public outreach initiative: each station is run by trained local amateur volunteers, recruited from the communities along the eclipse path with a focus on broad representation and on providing a lasting educational and outreach impact. Volunteers are compensated in multiple ways and are invited to participate in ongoing scientific analysis and engagement.We discuss CATE 2024’s scientific and outreach objectives, the current project status, results from the engineering test during the 2023 Apr 20 TSE in Australia, and plans for 2024 and beyond.

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