Apr 8, 2024 - News

Iowa State students launch balloon for unique view of solar eclipse

isu students with a balloon

ISU students test run launching a high-altitude balloon. Photo: Courtesy of ISU

Iowa State students are experiencing today's solar eclipse in an out-of-this-world way.

Driving the news: Students in ISU's "Make to Innovate" program are launching a high-altitude balloon that will allow them to reach "near space" and study Earth's atmosphere during the eclipse, Matthew Nelson, the program's director, tells Axios.

State of play: Over the weekend, nine students traveled from Ames to Carbondale, Illinois, to get in the path of totality for the launch.

  • Today, they'll release a hydrogen-filled balloon carrying cameras, a GPS and sensors that will track temperature, pressure and humidity during the eclipse.
  • They also plan on live streaming the eclipse from the balloon's birds-eye perspective.

The intrigue: Reaching space is expensive. But the balloon lets students get close to it for a fraction of the cost.

  • Most commercial jets cruise at 30,000-40,000 feet, while the balloon's height will double that, Nelson says.

What's next: Eventually, the balloon will pop and a parachute will bring the research equipment back down to Earth, which can take several hours.

  • During a test run in March, the equipment ended up 61 miles southeast of Ames near Malcolm.
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