Observations of many solar phenomena have only become accessible to humans relatively recently with the advent of satellites. Prior to that, it simply wasn’t feasible to observe dynamics in the sun’s atmosphere, like solar prominences or coronal mass ejections – the sun was simply too bright to see them – except during the occasional total solar eclipse!
In the 1970s, scientists identified massive bursts of solar plasma as coronal mass ejections. These solar storms are responsible for so-called space weather and, when directed toward Earth, can pose a hazard to technologies on the ground and astronauts in orbit. Scientists initially thought this was the first time such storms had been observed, but they later recognized that photographs and sketches of an 1860 total eclipse revealed that humanity had seen a coronal mass ejection more than 100 years before! Check out the NASA video below for the full story. You can also learn about some of the science that will be going on in today’s eclipse. And, for those in the U.S. today, have a fun and safe time viewing the ecliipse! (Image credit: S. Habbal, M. Druckmüller and P. Aniol, source; video credit: NASA Goddard)