NASA Unleashes Two Vintage Warplanes to Chase the Eclipse


WHILE MILLIONS OF astronomy enthusiasts chase the moon’s shadow on the ground during the August 21 total solar eclipse, four NASA personnel are going to have front row seats. Two pilots and two technicians will race the big black spot at 50,000 feet, well above any cloud cover. And at 400 mph, they’ll be able to stretch their time in the shadow to three minutes, compared to two on the ground.

They’re not just up there for the view. The aircraft, two 1960s vintage WB-57F jets that NASA frequently dispatches for high-altitude research, will carry instruments to help scientists study the solar atmosphere. At cruising altitude, the sky will be 20 to 30 times darker than on the ground, enhancing the details in the sun’s atmosphere—and allowing for pictures in the greatest detail yet.

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