What is the impact of solar eclipses on inventions?

Author : dr. Jacekas Antulis, Associated Partner, Head of the Patent Division at METIDA

jacekasA solar eclipse is a phenomenon that occurs when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, thus, occulting the disk of the Sun. This is one of the most beautiful phenomena that may be watched by people from the Earth, you just have to be in the right place at the right time because this is a rare phenomenon which fully reoccurs only every 18 years. The next full solar eclipse is expected on 21 August 2017 during which the Moon’s shadow will be best seen by the USA population. The shadow band is around 106 km width; thus, in order to watch the lunar eclipse, everything should be planned in advance, i.e. arrival and the watching equipment. One of the main things is reaching the appropriate place in time because the duration of the total eclipse is only around 2 min 40 seconds if you are planning to be at the central line of the shadow and if we are talking about full obscuring of the disk of the Sun. This year this should be a real challenge because, according to the preliminary estimations, the greatest traffic jam in history is expected in such a narrow line because around 60 million people may be waiting for the eclipse.

Since antient times, solar eclipses frightened people; it is not usual that suddenly the sky darkens and the Sun seems to disappear and a watching black eye which seems to bring nothing goods appears instead of it. The more especially as the eclipse can be felt even physically, i.e. temperature may drop even by 15 degrees within the short period of time. This suggests the importance of the influence of the Sun. Over the years, people have realised that a solar eclipse is an astronomical phenomenon with certain period of reoccurrence. The theory of the period is described in the so-called saros cycle. Around 71 eclipses, i.e. 43 solar eclipses and 28 lunar eclipses, occur during the cycle.

It is interesting that the Moon and the Sun look the same size in the sky. Although their masses and actual sizes significantly differ, the distances between the Sun and the Moon and between the Moon and the Earth have “devotailed” so that the Moon in respect of the Earth practically completely covers the Sun (not too much and not too little). This is a concurrence which is exclusive not only in the solar system (in which over 170 satellites have been detected and the number of satellites continues growing), but probably in the whole galaxy in which intelligent beings could live. Let’s take this opportunity to watch this unusual phenomenon because the distance of the Moon and the Earth is slowly increasing (around 4 cm every year) and cannot fully occult the disk of the Sun in the future.

A total solar eclipse is not only a beautiful and exceptional phenomenon, but its role is of particular significance to the human history and science.

The first important aspect is that namely the part of the theory of Albert Einstein stating that the mass contorts the space and light in the universe follows not a straight line, but is bent if there is an object of a rather great mass near it was validated namely during the total solar eclipse.

The second aspect is that, in case of full eclipse, the solar corona, i.e. the outer layers of the Sun’s atmosphere which are above the chromosphere with electromagnetic storms and many other phenomena may be seen. In 1971, the NASA satellite recorded an unexpected phenomenon during which a large piece of material detached from the surface of the Sun and carried to the outer space at high speed. Such phenomena near the surface of the Earth create beautiful auroras, but also may be dangerous to all electronics and power grids. One of the greatest recorded solar storms occurred in 1859. Its power was so great that if it happened today, all electronic equipment in operation at that time in the Earth was destroyed: at least 5 years would be necessary for elimination of such damage, we would have to survive the greatest crisis in the world resulting in the deaths of millions of people. Thus, people have reasoned that in order to avoid similar global emergencies, the Sun must be thoroughly analysed and closely watched. As we learn of such storms in the Sun at the speed of light and the propagation speed of material is only 7 million km per hour, if we install the respective systems in satellites and switch off electric appliances in time, a disaster could be avoided in the Earth.

Yet another important thing is that planets in other star systems may be recorded and analysed by applying the total eclipse effect in the satellite telescopes and employing the transit model.

Science constantly develops, people discover something new what leads to inventions. One of the simplest inventions related to eclipses is special glasses enabling to observe the Sun at the moment of the eclipse. Glasses of different types may be found in the patent databases; today glasses even enable to experience the 3D effect. Around 100 million glasses may be sold during one solar eclipse. Thus, even a simple invention patented in time may bring great success: only the demand on the market should be considered, appropriate marketing should be carried out, effective sales networks should be created and, most importantly, the intellectual property developed by you should be protected.

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