Solar physicist Shadia Habbal travels the world to study the sun's corona. When a solar eclipse is going to occur, she and a team of scientists with specialized equipment set out for a previously scouted location that has been determined to be an optimal place for viewing the event. This is "one of the few times scientists can get a good look" at the corona. With a window of only a few minutes, the team's work is calibrated down to fractions of a second, and everyone has a specific role to play. But even if the team is spot on with their responsibilities, weather and other environmental factors can impede their efforts and ruin months of preparation. In her contribution to the Scientists in the Field series, writer Ilima Loomis uses Habbal's preparation for the 2017 eclipse in the United States to illuminate all the intricacies of the meticulous operation to study the heart of the solar system.
Loomis's descriptions of the complex science are accompanied by supplemental sections that make the book highly accessible, offering explanations of concepts like solar wind or illustrating the tools the scientists use. Amanda Cowan's photographs bring readers closer to the action of the eclipse chase. Her images vividly capture mood and emotion, adding a truly human element to the adventure: the event is more than data in a textbook, it's hopes and dreams built on a few precious minutes. Readers will surely feel invested in it all, hoping for a successful result. Budding astronomers should find much to enjoy in these pages, and the Eclipse Chaser herself is likely to spark a light of interest in others as well. --Jen Forbus, freelancer