4 Eclipses & Counting — How a Ballooning Project Lifts U.S. Students in STEM

Witness the magic of a solar eclipse through a NASA-sponsored STEM initiative, no glasses needed.

By Trinity Alicia | April 4, 2024

Students are on the brink of an out-of-this-world learning opportunity. 

On April 8, more than 750 college students across the United States will launch hundreds of weather balloons into the atmosphere to research, observe and engage with the total solar eclipse as a part of a student initiative spearheaded by the Montana Space Grant Consortium.

Drawing from the highly successful NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF)-sponsored Nationwide Eclipse Ballooning Project (NEBP) implemented during the 2017, 2019, 2020 and 2023 total solar eclipses, this current NEBP initiative aims to broaden STEM student participation during the upcoming total solar eclipse — the last U.S. eclipse spanning coast-to-coast until 2045.

Students from 75 higher education institutions, including Minority Serving Institutions and community colleges will have the opportunity to garner atmospheric measurements that can only be conducted during an eclipse. 

The balloons, carrying long, hanging strings of scientific instruments, will enter the path of totality, the area on Earth’s surface where the moon completely covers the sun. 

People along the path of totality, which stretches from Texas to Maine, will have the chance to see the eclipse. For those outside this path, a partial solar eclipse will be visible.

NEBP hopes to “enable inclusive STEM education for participating students, advance learners’ understanding of the process of science as well as create, enhance and sustain networks and partnerships.” 

As anticipation builds for the upcoming spectacle, we wanted to share incredible archives from NEBP’s previous balloon launches. The breathtaking snapshots from the sky offer a unique perspective on past solar eclipses to gear up for the big day.

Juie Shetye/New Mexico State University
St. Catherine’s University
Central Wyoming College
Nationwide Eclipse Ballooning Project
Central Wyoming College
St. Catherine’s University
Nationwide Eclipse Ballooning Project
Central Wyoming College

All photos courtesy of National Eclipse of Ballooning Project (NEBP) Education

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