Earth to Sky Calculus will launch balloons during eclipse
A group of scientists from the Eastern Sierra are preparing for the August 21 total solar eclipse in a completely unique way—the members of Aspendell-based Earth to Sky Calculus will be spreading out along the path of totality and launching a dozen stratospheric helium balloons to capture photos of the first total solar eclipse to cross the United States since 1918.
The helium balloons, which travel to the edge of the atmosphere (to about 100,000 feet) before they explode, will be carrying “payloads” of cameras, radiation sensors, and GPS trackers. For the solar eclipse project, spherical cameras will be added to the balloons. “We hope to get 360 views of the moon’s shadow on the earth,” said Dr. Tony Phillips, who founded the organization of young scientists and who runs a website called spaceweather.com to document the group’s findings, among other projects of his own. “That has never been done before.”
Several Earth to Sky students traveled to Indonesia in March of 2016 to do an on-the-ground simulation of the upcoming launch (see “Earth to Sky students take off for Indonesia,” March 5, 2016), and now the big event is finally upon them.
“It’s really almost surreal,” said Joe Harvey, who was one of the students who traveled to Belitung Island in Indonesia to experience his first total solar eclipse. “In less than [one week] I’ll be in Wyoming experiencing another total eclipse, where a little less than a year and a half ago I was in another country.”
Harvey said that the opportunity to “go launch some balloons and hang out with some dogs in Aspendell” in the summer of 2014 has truly changed his life.
“I grew up in Bishop. I mean, it’s Bishop. I would never have guessed in a million years I’d join a group that would take me to Indonesia…or to go present at a space weather conference…or go to an astrobiology conference in Chicago.”
Earth to Sky members will position themselves in Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming and Kansas, leading up to the eclipse, according to Dana Crom, Joe Harvey’s mother and a diehard supporter of the group’s endeavors. Crom is driving a motorhome out to Wyoming to act as a support team for her group—Kim Craft, former Executive Director of Mule Days in Bishop, is a friend of Crom’s and has offered her property in Fort Laramie as a launch site.