For the first time in 99 years, a total solar eclipse will cross the entire nation on Monday, August 21, 2017. Over the course of 100 minutes, 14 states across the United States will experience over two minutes of darkness in the middle of the day.
The total solar eclipse is visible on a path from Oregon to the Atlantic coast (South Carolina). While the total eclipse cannot be seen locally in Connecticut, a NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium (CTSCG) team composed of students and faculty from the University of Hartford and the University of Bridgeport will participate in bringing the experience to the nation.
The team will launch two high-altitude balloons on August 21 as part of a nationwide, NASA-sponsored project to live stream aerial video footage of the “Great American Eclipse.” The NASA CTSCG team will launch two roughly 8-foot-tall, helium-filled balloons, which will carry video cameras and other equipment to an altitude of up to 100,000 feet, at approximately 12 p.m. CT (1 p.m. ET) near Cadiz, Kentucky.
Live footage from the camera will be available for public viewing on NASA’s website, http://nasa.gov, on August 21.
As part of the Eclipse Ballooning Project, 55 teams from across the country will launch high-altitude balloons and live stream footage of the total solar eclipse. The moon will entirely block the sun for approximately two minutes on a path progressing from the Pacific coast in Oregon (1:17 p.m. PCT) to the Atlantic coast in South Carolina (2:47 p.m. EST).
The NASA-sponsored project has been years in the making. According to MSGC Director Angela Des Jardins, the project marks the first time that high-altitude video footage of a total solar eclipse has been broadcast live. “We’re excited to provide a unique perspective of this rare phenomenon,” Des Jardins said. “The live-stream video will show the curvature of the planet, the blackness of space, and the whole of the moon’s shadow crossing the Earth during the eclipse.”
For the past two years, the NASA CTSGC team has been preparing for the event. “Our team members have built payloads, learned about the freezing, near vacuum environment in which the balloons will operate, and practiced launches,” said University of Bridgeport faculty lead, Prof. Jani Macari Pallis, Ph.D.
In addition to a video camera, the team’s balloons will carry a GPS tracking system, a camera to capture still images of the eclipse, and a small “bacterial coupon” as part of a NASA astrobiology experiment. Once the eclipse has passed, the balloon will burst and the payloads will parachute to Earth.
“This is truly an interdisciplinary project that involves hardware, software, regulations, and management which will provide great learning experience to our students,” said the Director of NASA CTSGC, Hisham Alnajjar, Ph.D, who is also leading a design team on this project at the University of Hartford.
The project is sponsored by the NASA Science Mission Directorate and NASA’s Space Grant program, a national network that includes over 900 affiliates from universities, colleges, industry, museums, science centers, and state and local agencies belonging to one of 52 consortia in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
For more information about the national project and press materials, visit http://eclipse.montana.edu.
For more information about the Connecticut Space Grant Consortium visit http://ctspacegrant.org/.