Four Eclipses and More: How a Ballooning Project is Elevating U.S. Students in STEM

By Trinity Alicia
April 4, 2024

Students are on the verge of a unique learning experience.

On April 8, over 750 university students nationwide will launch numerous weather balloons into the sky to study, observe, and participate in the total solar eclipse as part of a student-led effort by the Montana Space Grant Consortium.

Building on the success of the NASA and National Science Foundation (NSF)-sponsored Nationwide Eclipse Ballooning Project (NEBP) conducted during the 2017, 2019, 2020, and 2023 total solar eclipses, this new NEBP initiative aims to increase STEM student involvement during the upcoming total solar eclipse — the final U.S. eclipse spanning coast-to-coast until 2045.

Last weekend a team of #UAlbany students traveled to New Mexico to join a Nationwide Eclipse Ballooning Project supported by @NASA and the @NSF. Our student researchers launched several weather balloons during the annular solar eclipse! Photo Credit: Alan Birnbaum pic.twitter.com/NrP5BavqM7

— University at Albany (@ualbany) October 19, 2023

Students from 75 colleges, including Minority Serving Institutions and community colleges, will be able to collect atmospheric data that is only possible during an eclipse.

The balloons, equipped with rows of scientific instruments, will pass through the path of totality, the region where the moon entirely obscures the sun.

People within the path of totality, spanning from Texas to Maine, will witness the eclipse. Those outside this path will experience a partial solar eclipse.

A #UHart engineering team will conduct a research project during the partial solar eclipse in October with backing from @NASA. Members recently launched a high-altitude balloon from campus 20,000 feet into the sky and then retrieved it from Coventry! https://t.co/fH76hPCzV6 pic.twitter.com/0A0g8bcNH8

— University of Hartford (@UofHartford) June 6, 2023

NEBP aims to “facilitate inclusive STEM education for participating students, enhance learners’ grasp of the scientific process, and generate, bolster, and maintain networks and partnerships.”

With excitement building for the upcoming event, we’re excited to share stunning archives from previous NEBP balloon launches. These captivating aerial views provide a distinctive insight into past solar eclipses to prepare for the upcoming phenomenon.

Juie Shetye/New Mexico State University
St. Catherine’s University
Central Wyoming College
Nationwide Eclipse Ballooning Project
Central Wyoming College
St. Catherine’s University
Nationwide Eclipse Ballooning Project
Central Wyoming College

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