Balloons to live stream eclipse

Balloon view from the stratosphere. | NASA Space Grant

On Aug. 21, millions of people along a 70-mile wide path of totality in the United States stretching from coast to coast will experience a total solar eclipse. The last total eclipse in the U.S. happened in 1979, so this will be the first total eclipse experience for many Americans.

Aug. 21, 2017
Starts | 9:04 a.m.
Maximum eclipse | 10:20 a.m.
Ends | 11:43 a.m.
Live stream |

For those planning to be in the path of totality to view the eclipse it will be without a doubt the event of a lifetime, never to be forgotten as the day the Moon blocked out the Sun and day became night for a moment.

Eclipse Balloon Project practice launch. | NASA Space Grant

First grade student Sienna Larrucea of Loyalton Elementary School expressed her excitement for her upcoming eclipse trip in a poem:

I’m going to see the solar eclipse
With a smile on my lips
It sounds exciting when the Moon is in front of the Sun
I bet I will have a lot of fun
I will sit there in my special glasses
And watch as the Moon slowly passes
As the darkness comes along
The birds will sing their evening song
Then it will get bright once more
And things will look like they did before
You see I am so excited to go
To see the eclipse in Idaho.

Most of us will not travel to the path of totality experiencing a partial eclipse of the Sun instead. In the Tahoe-Reno region, the partial eclipse will begin on Aug. 21 at 9:04 a.m. with maximum eclipse (83 percent) at 10:20 a.m., and the end of partial eclipse at 11:43 a.m.

Unfortunately, almost all the geeky astronomer types in our area will not be in town during the eclipse, so there aren’t a lot of options for organized public viewings. But, anyone with proper solar viewing glasses, a pin hole camera or standing under a tree looking down at the pin hole type projections on the ground can watch the progress of the Moon crossing the disk of the Sun.

There is an interesting option to take a balloon ride to the stratosphere 100,000 feet up to view the eclipse with the “Eclipse Ballooning Project.”

Dr. Eric Wang, Associate Professor of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at University of Nevada, Reno, is associated with the project through Nevada Space Grant, which has been active in high altitude ballooning for the past 15 years.

The public can view the live stream at

I had a chance to ask him a couple questions about the project:

What is the eclipse ballooning project?
“The basic concept is to launch as many high altitude (stratospheric) balloons as possible to capture and live stream the eclipse. About 60 teams from universities, community colleges, high schools and private ballooning groups will be doing a coordinated launch from dozens of sites across the path of the eclipse. The balloons will provide live coverage of the eclipse as viewed from balloons at about 100,000 feet. As the eclipse progress across the US, teams will launch their balloons and live stream the videos for anyone to watch.”

What can you see on the live stream?
“The live steam will show mainly the eclipse. We are also recording the entire event with 360-degree spherical cameras so anyone can rotate the view in VR (virtual reality) to view either the eclipse or the shadow.”

Dr. Wang added that he was excited to witness the eclipse, and felt lucky to participate in a project of this size.

“We will be launching from eastern Idaho and have a few alternate sites to use if it turns out to be cloudy in eastern Idaho,” he said.

Whether you are traveling to totality, viewing a partial with those special glasses or hopping on a stratospheric balloon, Happy Eclipse Viewing.

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