Two NASA Jet Planes Will Follow the Total Solar Eclipse

With millions set to watch the solar eclipse on Monday, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is deploying two jet airplanes to follow the celestial phenomenon as it tracks across the continent.

The scientists at NASA hope the telescopes installed on the two WB-57F jet planes will record the clearest images ever of the sun’s atmosphere, also called the corona, according to a press release.

The two jets will also be able to capture thermal images of Mercury for the first time. These will be used to learn about the temperatures on the planet’s surface.

A WB-57F jet at NASA
A WB-57F jet at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The instruments are fitted under the silver casing on the jet’s nose. (NASA’s Johnson Space Center/Norah Moran)

“These could well turn out to be the best ever observations of high-frequency phenomena in the corona,” Dan Seaton, co-investigator of the project and researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder, said in the NASA statement.

The planes will cruise at 50,000 feet above ground, which will reduce the turbulence and improve the quality of the images. The cameras on the planes will snap 30 high-definition images per second.

The view from that altitude is dramatically improved compared to the ground, with the sky appearing 20 to 30 times darker.

A woman looks through a telescope on the football field at Madras High School the evening before a solar eclipse in Madras, Oregon on Aug.20, 2017. (REUTERS/Jason Redmond)
A woman looks through a telescope on the football field at Madras High School the evening before a solar eclipse in Madras, Oregon on Aug.20, 2017. (REUTERS/Jason Redmond)

The biggest advantage may be the length of time the planes will be able to record the event: a whopping 7 minutes compared to just two minutes that most stationary observers on the ground will get.

“Extending the observing time and going to very high altitude might allow us to see a few events or track waves that would be essentially invisible in just two minutes of observations from the ground,” Seaton said.

Previously, scientists used a tool called a coronagraph to try and study the sun’s atmosphere, but the method was far from perfect since the images were blurred at best.

A total eclipse is a rare chance for researchers to study the missing link in understanding the causes and effects of space weather and the connection between the sun and the earth. NASA views it as a valuable opportunity.

The two jets’ mission is part of 11 projects NASA is planning for the eclipse. Six of the projects will be studying the sun, while five will focus on the earth.

 
 
 
RECOMMENDED ARTICLE

China Takes Back Its Panda, in Secret Soft Power Plot

China Takes Back Its Panda, in Secret Soft Power Plot
READ MORE >
 
 

Evidence Emerging That New Sanctions on North Korea are Working

Evidence Emerging That New Sanctions on North Korea are Working
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday said that there are indications that sanctions imposed on North Korea ...
READ MORE >
 

North Korea Brushes Off Trump’s UN Speech Comments

North Korea Brushes Off Trump’s UN Speech Comments
North Korea's top diplomat brushed aside President Donald Trump's recent threats on Wednesday, Sept. 20, comparing it to ...
READ MORE >
 

Russia Tests Second Intercontinental Ballistic Missile in 10 Days

Russia Tests Second Intercontinental Ballistic Missile in 10 Days
Russia has test-fired its second intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) within 10 days, according to state-backed media. The Russian Strategic ...
READ MORE >
 

5.7-Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Off Indonesia Coast: USGS

5.7-Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Off Indonesia Coast: USGS
A strong undersea earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia's holiday hotspot, Bali. The 5.7-magnitude earthquake was detected ...
READ MORE >
 

31 FACTS About Hot Korean Actor Song Joong Ki (Special Edition)

31 FACTS About Hot Korean Actor Song Joong Ki (Special Edition)
Korean actor Song Joong Ki (popular from drama, ‘Descendants of the Sun’) is his 31-year-old this year and ...
READ MORE >