Science: Big Blackout

At Bocayuva, Brazil this week, an eager group of U.S. scientists were happily tuning up their instruments (everything from thermometers to a 6-29). They were waiting for the moon to eclipse the sun on May 20. The scientists had picked Bocayuva, 400 miles north of Rio de Janeiro, as the spot most likely to have clear skies on the big day. If clouds should blind the ground instruments, airplanes will take off early to observe what they can from high altitudes.

Totality will last three minutes, 48 seconds—the longest solar blackout since 1940 and until 1955. The National Geographic Society and the...

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