High-Altitude Jets Offer Scientists Unique Vantage Point for Total Solar Eclipse

Image courtesy of NASA WB-57F planes with eclipse art |
NASA/Faroe Islands/SwR

By Samantha Mathewson, Space.com, July 31, 2017 

Flying in a pair WB-57F jets at an altitude of over 50,000 feet, researchers will study the sun’s corona and the surface of Mercury during the August 21 eclipse.

A group of scientists is taking to the skies to chase the shadow of the moon during the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21from the unique vantage point of two retrofitted WB-57F jet planes.

Amir Caspi, a scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and his team will soar 50,000 feet over Missouri, Illinois, and Tennessee in jets outfitted with high-tech telescopes. At this altitude, the telescopes mounted on the noses of the planes will be able to capture a clear view of the outer layer of the sun’s atmosphere, or the corona; they may also capture thermal images of Mercury, a planet typically obscured by the bright glare from the sun, according to a statement from NASA.

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