Eclipses aren’t just beautiful – they’re great for science.

In addition to inspiring artists and musicians, eclipses have driven numerous scientific discoveries. For over a century, solar eclipses helped scientists decipher the Sun’s structure and explosive events, find evidence for the theory of general relativity, discover a new element, and much more.

NASA scientists still study eclipses to make new discoveries about the Sun, Earth, and our space environment. Total solar eclipses are particularly important because they allow scientists to see a part of the Sun’s atmosphere – known as the corona – which is too faint to see except when the bright light of the Sun’s surface is blocked.

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animation of a coronograph NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, constantly observes the outer regions of the Sun’s corona using a coronagraph, which blocks the bright solar disk. Credits: ESA/NASA/SOHO