Eclipse: Google needs your help to create celestial ‘Megamovie’

There appears to be much excitement about an imminent celestial event involving a large piece of rock temporarily blocking the light of a distant ball of fire.

Better known as a total solar eclipse, the wondrous spectacle will sweep across the U.S. from west to east on Monday, delighting millions of people who live along the path of totality or who’ve traveled there especially to witness it.

Google has teamed up with UC Berkeley to make a Megamovie of the eclipse using all of the photos it receives from anyone who wants to be a part of the project. So how about it?

While you’ll definitely want to spend some of the time marveling at the eclipse through your special safety specs, Google knows that a good number of you will also be keen to snap it with your smartphone or a more sophisticated camera.

So if you happen to grab a shot of the moon during that brief moment of totality (NASA says it’s going to last a maximum of 2 minutes and 43 seconds), then how about uploading it to Google’s servers so it can use the image to help build its Megamovie?

Besides the Megamovie featuring “high definition, time-expanded video” of the eclipse, the images will also “help scientists to study the sun’s atmosphere for years to come,” Google said.

Its particularly interested in learning more about “the motions in the sun’s corona [the outermost atmosphere of the sun and] cyclical changes in the sun’s temperature.”

Megamovie app

If you fancy getting involved, head to the iTunes store or Google Play store now to download the free Megamovie Mobile app. If you’re using a DSLR to capture the eclipse, you can still get involved by signing up here.

The app explains how you can photograph the eclipse using an appropriate filter so that your camera’s sensor stays protected.

When you arrive at a spot to view the eclipse, the app will work out your location and automatically begin snapping away 15 seconds before the totality period starts, taking shots throughout the eclipse, including of the dramatic “diamond ring” effect.

The app also beeps to tell you to take off the filter during the totality period, and reminds you again to replace it as the sun begins to reappear.

When you’re back home, you can then upload the photos to Google’s servers so it can build the movie. At the same time, you’ll be giving scientists a bundle of new material for their solar research.

“It’s really an experiment in using crowd-sourcing to do solar science, which will hopefully pave the way for much future work,” solar physicist Juan Carlos Martínez Oliveros, who’s part of the Eclipse Megamovie team at UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory, told UC Berkeley News.

“The app is going to do everything for you, so you just need to enjoy the eclipse,” Oliveros said. If you’re at all unsure about what to do, the app offers a practice mode so you can try it out before the eclipse starts.

Monday’s highly anticipated celestial event begins in Oregon at 9:06 a.m. PT, moving east across 14 U.S. states before ending in South Carolina at 4:06 p.m. ET.