Montana State University

MSU scientist to speak at NASA-sponsored media briefing on upcoming solar eclipse

June 19, 2017 -- MSU News Service

Montana Space Grant Consortium director Angela Des Jardins. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
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BOZEMAN – On June 21, a Montana State University researcher will take part in a NASA-sponsored media briefing about the total solar eclipse that will cross the United States on Aug. 21.

Angela Des Jardins, director of the Montana Space Grant Consortium at MSU, will speak alongside top officials from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Park Service, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the National Science Foundation and others at the Washington D.C. event, which is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. (1 p.m. EDT). The briefing will be live-streamed on NASA’s online video channel.

The panelists will provide important safety and travel information about the eclipse, as well as discuss scientific studies that will take place during the rare celestial event.

Des Jardins will present information about the MSU-led Eclipse Ballooning Project, in which 55 teams from across the country will capture aerial video of the eclipse from high-altitude balloons and live-stream the footage to NASA’s website.

The Aug. 21 eclipse will mark the first time that high-altitude balloons will be used to live-stream video footage of a total solar eclipse.

Des Jardins, an assistant research professor in the Department of Physics in MSU’s College of Letters and Science, first approached NASA about three years ago with the idea for the project. Since then, the MSU team, which currently includes 14 undergraduates and two graduate students, has played a key role in designing and producing the equipment for the nationwide project, coordinating trainings for the teams and orchestrating the live-stream for NASA.

According to Des Jardins, between 100 and 500 million viewers are expected to watch the live-stream footage taken by the balloons.

The members of the MSU team will launch their balloon, which is roughly eight feet tall when filled with helium, from the Rexburg, Idaho, airport on Aug. 21. The balloon will carry a video camera and other equipment to an altitude of up to 100,000 feet.

The most recent total eclipse over the continental U.S. occurred in 1979; the next one will occur in 2024.

The Eclipse Ballooning Project is sponsored by the NASA Science Mission Directorate and NASA’s Space Grant program, a national network that includes more than 900 affiliates from universities, colleges, industry, museums, science centers, and state and local agencies belonging to one of 52 consortia in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

Des Jardins is the second of six panelists slated to speak during the science portion of the briefing, which begins at 12:30 p.m. (2:30 p.m. EDT).

For more information, as well as photo and video downloads, visit http://eclipse.montana.edu/.

Contact: Marshall Swearingen, MSU Communications, marshall.swearingen@montana.edu, (406) 994-5036.

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