The animation compares a composite image generated from photographs taken on the day of the total eclipse (21 August 2017) to the model’s predictions. Image credit: Predictive Science Inc./Miloslav Druckmüller, Peter Aniol, Shadia Habbal/NASA Goddard, Joy Ng
It was 14 August 2017, just one week before the Moon would cross paths with the Sun and Earth, casting its shadow across the United States. The entire country buzzed with anticipation for the fleeting chance to see the corona, the Sun’s tenuous outer atmosphere.
But the wait was uniquely nerve-wracking for a group of scientists at Predictive Science Inc., a private research company in San Diego, United States: They had just published a prediction of what the corona would look like on 21 August 2017, the day of the total solar eclipse. How would their prediction — the result of a complex numerical model and tens of hours of computing — compare to the real thing?
“Waiting for totality, you know exactly what you’ve predicted and what you’re expecting,” says Predictive Science researcher Zoran Mikić. “Because you work with the model so much and see the prediction so many times, it’s burned into your brain. There’s a lot of anxiety because if ...