Balloons will offer unique view of eclipse from 20 miles in air

CLEMSON, S.C. — We’re just days away from the total solar eclipse, and some people plan to experience the event in a unique way.

Severe Weather Team 2 meteorologist Brad Nitz traveled to South Carolina's Clemson University, where officials are expecting nearly 25,000 visitors for the event.

“We’ve known for years that the eclipse is coming and that Clemson’s in the path,” said science professor Dr. Amber Porter.

Porter told Nitz the Monday eclipse is an opportunity to get people to Clemson’s campus to teach them about science.

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“It will be kind of similar to a football day on campus,” she said.

The university will host expert speakers, fields for observers and a live stream from nearly 20 miles high.

“They’re going to launch a high-altitude balloon, which is going to rise 100,000 feet into the air,” Porter said.

The University of Maine’s high-altitude ballooning team will launch two balloons on Clemson’s campus.

“It’s going to be pretty cool to see an eclipse actually in the sky, like watching the sun, but it’s going to be something else to watch it on the earth,” University of Maine sophomore Derek Haas said.

Haas’ group is one of 57 from across the country participating in the eclipse ballooning project.


“Getting asked to do this was pretty cool because who doesn’t want to see an eclipse?” Haas said.

The balloons are equipped with GPS, satellite tracking and a modem to stream video.

Haas said the balloon is about eight feet in diameter when inflated on the ground. It expands to nearly 40 feet in high altitude before it bursts from the pressure. A parachute brings it safely back to earth.

“Being able to see in real time where the balloon is and where it’s pointing down on the ground and getting the chance to actually see the eclipse is going to be pretty amazing,” Haas said.

If you can't make it to Clemson, you can watch NASA's livestreams from the 25 sites that are launching balloons as the eclipse passes over the United States.