Abstract

A total solar eclipse provides an opportunity to observe, quantify, and conduct experiments involving a number of unique meteorological and environmental conditions and phenomena, and the means to develop a more detailed understanding of the atmospheric variables at play during a rarely observed cosmic occurrence. High altitude ballooning is particularly suited for collecting data during an eclipse, although a number of logistical and procedural challenges are associated with launching during totality. The members of the University of Maryland, College Park Balloon Payload Program, funded by the Maryland Space Grant Consortium, traveled to South Carolina to launch a number of experimental and observational payloads during the total eclipse of August 21, 2017. This paper describes the balloon flight, launch procedures, associated challenges, and payload data, thereby providing a window into the variety of valuable engineering design expertise and hands-on skills developed through this student-run initiative.

Keywords: solar eclipse, totality, high altitude ballooning, atmosphere, nearspace

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High Altitude Ballooning Operations During the 2017 Solar Eclipse

A total solar eclipse provides an opportunity to observe, quantify, and conduct experiments involving a number of unique meteorological and environmental conditions and phenomena, and the means to develop a more detailed understanding of the atmospheric variables at play during a rarely observed cosmic occurrence. High altitude ballooning is particularly suited for collecting data during an eclipse, although a number of logistical and procedural challenges are associated with launching during totality. The members of the University of Maryland, College Park Balloon Payload Program, funded by the Maryland Space Grant Consortium, traveled to South Carolina to launch a number of experimental and observational payloads during the total eclipse of August 21, 2017. This paper describes the balloon flight, launch procedures, associated challenges, and payload data, thereby providing a window into the variety of valuable engineering design expertise and hands-on skills developed through this student-run initiative.

Keywords: solar eclipse, totality, high altitude ballooning, atmosphere, nearspace