NMSU students help NASA livestream total solar eclipse

Solar Eclipse
FILE - This March 9, 2016 file photo shows a total solar eclipse in Belitung, Indonesia. Hotel rooms already are going fast in Wyoming and other states along the path of next year’s solar eclipse. The total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017, will be the first in the mainland U.S. in almost four decades. (AP Photo, File)

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s going to be a rare sight to see, and a group from New Mexico is going to be part of a project NASA is sponsoring to livestream aerial video of the total solar eclipse as it crosses the United States.

It has been coined the “Great American Eclipse.” It will be a total eclipse of the sun, visible from coast to coast for the first time in 99 years.

The moon will move in front of the sun casting a shadow on the ground on Monday, August 21, causing total darkness if you’re in its path from Oregon to South Carolina.

For those who aren’t, like us here in New Mexico, NASA is sponsoring a project to livestream aerial video of it at http://eclipse.stream.live/

Two students and a senior research scientist from the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium at New Mexico State University make up one of more than 50 teams that will travel to different points along the path to make it happen.

“We’re just very excited to be a part of it, and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Norann Calhoun, a chemical engineering major at NMSU.

The group will leave NMSU on Thursday, August 17 to drive to Homestead National Monument of America in Nebraska.

That’s where they’ll launch a roughly 8-foot tall balloon 100,000 feet up in the sky.

“It should take about two hours to get to 100,000 feet and so we’re going to have to kind of time that with when the eclipse starts,” said Sten Hasselquist, an astronomy doctoral student.

They’re expecting the eclipse to last about two-and-a-half minutes.

Cameras equipped with GPS will be attached to the balloon so that when it’s over, they can cut the balloon down and retrieve the equipment wherever it lands.

They could be streaming for a huge crowd.

“It’s going to be in the millions,” Senior Research Scientist Paulo Oemig said.

Each balloon will also carry a highly-resilient bacteria to the stratosphere.

“As it reaches that high altitude, it will simulate the environment of Mars since there’s no really an ozone layer strong enough to protect it from ultra violet radiation and really low temperatures and really lack of water,” Oemig said.

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