NASA’s new astronauts are excited for April’s total eclipse: ‘I’m going to be that little kid all over again’ (exclusive) | Space

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New NASA astronaut Andre Douglas used to study the sun’s behavior for a living.

This puts Douglas, who passed basic NASA astronaut training on March 5, in the perfect position to talk about the total solar eclipse 2024 that will sweep across the United States on April 8.

The moon will pass completely in front of the sun from the perspective of a small part of Earth along the path of totality, briefly creating a spectacular view, and Douglas is among a group of excited NASA astronauts celebrating the event. Douglas once participated in a mission proposal focused on sun science, which he shared with hours after he graduated from basic training.

“We were trying to understand solar behavior, because our sun operates in 11-year-long cycles, and we were trying to understand the heliosphere,” Douglas recalled. The heliosphere is the bubble in the solar system where the solar wind, or the constant stream of particles from our sun, exerts its influence: Auroras or the northern lights are one of the most popular examples of that.

Related: Total solar eclipse 2024: How and where to watch online for free

Douglas was previously an engineer at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Baltimore, working on many missions. For the sun, he was on a team proposing a spacecraft rideshare mission called SIHLA, or Spatial/Spectral Imaging of Heliospheric Lyman Alpha.

SIHLA was one of two semi-finalists funded in 2019 to fly on a NASA mission slated to study interstellar space, and to map out the heliosphere. NASA’s Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP) mission will launch no earlier than 2025. (SIHLA was not selected for launch as an instrument to study Earth’s atmosphere was picked instead, but SIHLA’s work may be useful for future mission proposals.)

Artist’s impression of the parts of the heliosphere, or the region of influence of Earth’s sun. Shown also…

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