Preparations for Stratospheric Studies of the 2017 Solar Eclipse

Date Awarded



Mathematics and Physics

Project Description

Erick Agrimson, Associate Professor of Math and Physics and Kaye Smith Assistant Professor of Math and Physics, were awarded $20,000 for Preparations for Stratospheric Studies of the 2017 Solar Eclipse. Altitude balloons (HAB), are used for scientific and meteorological related purposes to study the Earth’s troposphere and stratosphere. During daylight flights, the temperature of the air directly beneath the balloon will be warmer than the ambient surrounding air due to solar radiation heating the skin of the balloon. The opposite effect is seen during night flights when the balloon cools as it rises due to the expanding gas inside. As the balloon ascends, it moves through these areas of warmer or cooler air; effectively a thermal wake. (1-8) also, effect of both the daytime and nighttime thermal wake is strongly dependent on the air pressure as a result of a changing Reynolds number and its effect on the heat exchange layer. Their work in the summer of 2015 was to understand how much daytime heating or nighttime cooling of the skin of the rising balloon affects measurements of atmospheric temperature conditions below the rising balloon. In addition to temperature measurements, they began studies of pressure and ozone measurements. This work characterized measurement devices that were used to accurately measure changes occurring during the 2017 full solar eclipse. A full solar eclipse (9) in the central United States is rare (10), so scaling up for this event needs significant equipment work. We were able to make use of the collaborative research model having engineering and physics faculty mentoring two students who became PI’s on this research project and presented research at national conferences.

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