Vanderbilt University chosen to study eclipse in unique way

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A team at Vanderbilt University has been chosen to study the eclipse in a unique way.

Rebekah Austin, a Vanderbilt graduate student told News 2 she has heard that just viewing the eclipse going from darkness to light is amazing.

Austin, along with 30 other students and professors, are one of 57 teams from universities and high schools around the country taking part in NASA’s Eclipse Ballooning Project.

“I am really excited for that, but I am also really excited to see all the science and the excitement in astronomy and engineering that will be to go on because of projects like this during the eclipse,” she explained.

Tim Holman is a faculty advisor for Vanderbilt’s Amateur Radio Club and will be working with several students to put some payloads, or all the different instrumentation, on the balloon.

One of the payloads will be an amateur repeater which allows people to talk to each other over that radio link during the launch.

Austin said that with the repeater she can talk to people as far away as Kentucky or North Carolina.

(Photo: WKRN)

There is also a weather-related payload that will record weather data, like pressure temperatures and CO2 levels.

The balloon will also carry a GPS tracking device and two cameras. One is for taking high-res still pictures and the other for living streaming video of the eclipse high in the sky.

Holman said there is considerably more computing power in this balloon payload that went in any of the Apollo launches that went to the moon.

On August 21, the balloon will launch from the best spot based on computer weather models about 30 minutes to one hour before totality.

He said the balloon will have a string of containers, as well as a parachute.

When it is inflated, the balloon will go up for about two hours. As it rises and the atmospheric pressure gets lower, the balloon expands and gets larger.

Between 80,000 and 100,000 feet, the balloon will burst and the parachute will automatically deploy and it will float down to earth.

The big takeaway is, even if it is a cloudy rainy day in Middle Tennessee, we should be able to see the eclipse via the livestream on the NASA website as long as the equipment works properly.

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