Agilent and the Solar Eclipse

On August 21, areas of the continental United States will witness a solar eclipse.  This occurs when the moon passes in front of the sun, creating the equivalent of a nighttime sky.

Interesting facts:

  • This will be the first total solar eclipse in the continental U.S. since 1979, 38 years ago. (There was also one in Hawaii in 1991).  The next ones will be in 2024, 2044, 2045 and 2078.
  • This will be the first eclipse since 1880 that is exclusive to the continental U.S. (Other eclipses have also been viewable in other countries/territories.)
  • The “totality” (period of peak darkness) is different for every eclipse, depending on the relative positions of the Earth, sun and moon. The 2017 eclipse will have a totality of about two minutes, give or take, depending on your exact location.  (The longest totality physically possible is seven and a half minutes, which won’t occur again until 2132.)
  • The center line of totality will pass through 12 states, but it will only cross one major city: Nashville, Tennessee.

Agilent is involved in just about everything that has to do with science, and the sun is no exception.  SOLAR is a science observatory aboard the International Space Station.  SOLAR’s instruments include an Agilent Cary UV-NIS-NIR, which measures the sun’s spectral reflection and transmission.

One interesting side effect of the solar eclipse will be its impact on America’s power grid.  The U.S. solar energy infrastructure has grown by 68 percent a year in the past decade, with a current capacity of 45 gigawatts.  The eclipse will dim solar radiation by 70 percent.  (Vox)  Fortunately, power companies are well prepared for the event.

Agilent’s corporate headquarters in California has one of the largest solar power installation in the city of Santa Clara.  The 63,755-square-foot rooftop array contains 3,600 solar panels, providing the site with 30 percent of its electricity during peak sunny hours.  Over the next 30 years, the system will displace 52 million pounds of carbon dioxide – that’s equivalent to removing 4,300 cars from California’s highways.

Agilent's corporate headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif.

Agilent’s corporate headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif.


Internationally, Agilent has solar power installations in India, Germany and the U.K.  The total 1,700 megawatt-hours of electricity produced reduce our carbon emissions by more than 450,000 tons a year.

I will be traveling north from California to Oregon to view the solar eclipse in person.  I will blog about my adventure next week!

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