Amateur photographers will help bring the solar eclipse to the world

SAN FRANCISCO -- When the moon eclipses the sun next week, another convergence will happen. An army of citizen scientists doing more than just casting their eye, to the sky.

It will certainly be the most photographed solar eclipse … ever.

A Google campaign aims to get the perfect shot … for science.

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Laura Peticolas

CBS News

Laura Peticolas is with UC Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory. They, and Google, will stitch together images of the eclipse from coast to coast into a short time-lapse movie that anyone can download that day.

"We managed to get 1,500 volunteers to sign up," Peticolas told us.

Eclipse Megamovie: Citizen science for the 2017 total solar eclipse by Google on YouTube

Tim McManus' has produced stellar images of full moons over San Francisco, although he doesn't consider himself a professional.

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Tim McManus

CBS News

"I'm like a complete ball of nerves! I'm totally nervous," McManus said. "I don't want to mess it up!"

Each photographer is using a digital camera with a telephoto lens. The scientists will study those images to learn more about the sun's atmosphere.

Peticolas says that "real people" gathering science is the wave of the future. "I think it's exciting," she said.

Another project, called Globe Observer, asks anyone during the eclipse to send NASA temperature data from their smartphones.

"You could be 2. You could be 92. You can use this app," scientist Autumn Burdick said. "The average Joe can become a scientist!"

As for whether McManus is contributing to science or trying to get a really great shot? "It's all about the likes," McManus laughs. 

The eclipse may be drawing amateurs to science, but it's also making the scientists a little silly.

"I'm totally taking a selfie with all my selfie buds," Peticolas said laughing.

So sun, get ready for your closeup.


CBS News will bring you live coverage with a CBS News Special Report beginning at 1 p.m. ET on Mon., Aug. 21 and you can watch the event on our 24/7 streaming service CBSN.