SciCombinator

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Concept: Limb darkening

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Solar eclipses provide a rapidly changing solar radiation environment. These changes can be studied using simple photodiode sensors, if the radiation reaching the sensors is unaffected by cloud. Transporting the sensors aloft using standard meteorological instrument packages modified to carry extra sensors, provides one promising but hitherto unexploited possibility for making solar eclipse radiation measurements. For the 20 March 2015 solar eclipse, a coordinated campaign of balloon-carried solar radiation measurements was undertaken from Reading (51.44°N, 0.94°W), Lerwick (60.15°N, 1.13°W) and Reykjavik (64.13°N, 21.90°W), straddling the path of the eclipse. The balloons reached sufficient altitude at the eclipse time for eclipse-induced variations in solar radiation and solar limb darkening to be measured above cloud. Because the sensor platforms were free to swing, techniques have been evaluated to correct the measurements for their changing orientation. In the swing-averaged technique, the mean value across a set of swings was used to approximate the radiation falling on a horizontal surface; in the swing-maximum technique, the direct beam was estimated by assuming that the maximum solar radiation during a swing occurs when the photodiode sensing surface becomes normal to the direction of the solar beam. Both approaches, essentially independent, give values that agree with theoretical expectations for the eclipse-induced radiation changes.This article is part of the themed issue ‘Atmospheric effects of solar eclipses stimulated by the 2015 UK eclipse’.

Concepts: Earth, Sun, Lunar eclipse, Eclipse, Solar eclipse, Saros cycle, Eclipse cycle, Limb darkening