School of Mines & Sanford Lab join nationwide Eclipse Ballooning Project

Published: Aug. 16, 2017 at 8:18 AM CDT
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Peggy Norris, an eclipse chaser and deputy director of education and outreach at the Sanford Underground Research Facility, is working with seven students as part of the nation-wide Eclipse Ballooning Project. The project is funded by the South Dakota Space Grant Consortium and NASA.

On Monday, August 21, as the shadow of the moon crosses the country from Oregon to South Carolina, 55 teams will launch balloons high into the atmosphere carrying a payload with a camera and several other experiments.

Norris' team includes four School of Mines students, one from the University of Minnesota, and two recent high school graduates. They have been working for months on each and every component of this project.

The balloons the team have been using start on the ground with an eight-foot diameter. As the balloon rises and the pressure drops, the balloon will expand - becoming 36 times larger before bursting. The payload will then fall back to Earth and the team will go retrieve it using GPS tracking.

The payload being carried by the balloon will have a downward-facing camera that will live stream the shadow as it moves across Nebraska. The stream on NASA's website ( will use one camera after the other all the way from Oregon to South Carolina. This local team will be solely responsible for a little over two minutes of that stream.

In addition to the live streaming camera, several experiments will also go up with the payload including a radiation detector to help determine the flux of cosmic rays in the upper atmosphere during the eclipse; a light detector to determine the amount of light reduction during the eclipse; a thin strip of on-board bacteria that will be sent to NASA labs after the flight for testing; a GPS tracking system; and two separate cameras, one with live footage showing the eclipse from high altitude another with recorded footage for later use.

The group will launch their balloon at 10:45 a.m. from a high school in the Nebraska panhandle and at 11:45 a.m. two and a half minutes of NASA's live stream of the shadow will be coming from their camera on their balloon. You can watch the footage live at on Monday, August 21.

More information on the project can be found