Amazing Photos of the Great American Eclipse!

The eclipse in totality looming over the Earth with its shadow. Taken from an elevation 60,000 feet, with a GoPro Hero 3+.

Another place. A different time. A wondrous occasion. August 21st, 2017 is a date we’ll never forget. Where were you when the moon obscured the sun? There are many answers, one to each person, but for our team of fifteen individuals, that place was a cozy little town called Dayville, Oregon.

The Umbra moving across the Earth, from an elevation of 60,000 feet. Image captured with a GoPro Hero 3+.

Our team was able to retrieve fantastic pictures from both the payload and our ground telescopes. Although there where a few complications during the event. The major problem was that our balloons ascended too fast causing the balloons to burst moments before totality. We believe that this was caused by the lack of wind, high atmospheric pressure and low humidity, resulting in weather conditions that did not slow the ascent of our balloon as usual.  The conditions were too ideal!

The elusive Diamond Ring, shot with an Orion 100mm refractor with a Canon Rebel EOS DSLR camera

Our contribution to Google’s Megamovie project was a major success. We obtained hundreds of magnificent pictures from our two telescopes. We were able to capture photos beginning at first contact and ending at fourth contact, even capturing images of the elusive Bailey’s beads and Diamond ring effect. All thanks to the help of the wonderful John Bunyan and Dave Bloomsness.

The elusive Bailey’s Beads, shortly before the long awaited totality, shot with an Orion 100mm refractor with a Canon Rebel EOS DSLR camera

Due to the lack of wind our payloads landed very close to our launch location, this does not mean that the retrieval was an easy task. The Tornado Payload was found on the ground about half a mile off a dirt road making the retrieval on this payload fairly easy. The Eagle Payload was much more difficult to recover, due to it being stuck in a tree down the steep slope of a mountain. We tried many different ways to retrieve this payload, from throwing rocks at it, to trying to cut the tree down with a small hatchet. We were able to retrieve the payload by using a dead tree to hook it, and bring it safely to the ground.

Prominence from the North Medford telescope set up: Orion 100mm refractor with Canon Rebel EOS DSLR camera
Image of the Corona shot with an Orion 100mm refractor with a Canon Rebel EOS DSLR camera

 

This has been a truly amazing project to be part of, and we can not wait until the next eclipse. We would like to thank everyone for all the support and keeping up with the project. From ours to yours: See you, Space Cowboys!

The team just before the event.
One of our balloons capturing another, with a GoPro Hero 3+

Maker Faire Was Fun!

We had a booth at the first Rogue Valley Maker Faire at ScienceWorks in Ashland on November 19, 2016. It was a lot of fun and there was significant interest in our project. We also did a tethered balloon launch in very windy conditions (see YouTube video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mB2xKf9Ycw4 ), but managed to live stream video for the first time from the balloon to the Internet. The team gave a theater presentation about the project and showed the live Internet video stream during the presentation.

Dayville Launch August 23rd, 2016

This launch was done in preparation for the final launch that will take place on August 21st, 2017. We did this launch in a tiny little town called Fox behind this charming church. Fox is about an hour or so outside of Dayville which is where we stayed during the three days we were there.

Our goals for this launch were:

  • To reach 100,000 ft. for the first time
  • To have two payload boxes successfully launch
  • To have a successful launch
  • To have three cameras in the top payload box. One facing the side, the top, and another on the bottom of the payload. The one on the top would be set to video and would record the balloon bursting.
  • To use the one of the two 2,000g balloons that we had
  • Have the payload be roughly 4lbs

This launch was a bit different from the others for a few reasons:

  1.  We used a 2,000g balloon
  2. We had three cameras rather than one
  3.  One of the cameras was recording
  4.  We were out in the desert

In order to be a bit more organized, we all split into three teams: The launch team, the tracking team, and the retrieval team. The launch team would launch the balloon and would then use the coordinates that were coming in from the SPOT tracker to go find the balloon. The tracking team would help track the balloon’s progress and report to both the launch and retrieval team. The retrieval team would use the predicted flight path that was generated that morning and use the last GPS coordinate that was on the predicted flight path and go there to video the balloon coming down.

With all of our teams ready to go, we lift off!

Overall, the launch was our most successful launch so far. We got the best pictures we have ever gotten. The BEST pictures. We owe those pictures to our mentor, John, Saxon and Apoorva, as well as one of the parents, Jamey.

The basic flight data:

  • Average ascent rate: 8.33 m/s
  • Maximum altitude: 22355 m (or about 76,000 ft.)
  • Time to burst: 42 minutes
  • Average descent rate: 13.29 m/s
  • Descent time: 26 minutes

Even though it was a successful launch, there were some setbacks. The 2,000 g balloon prematurely burst at 76,000 ft, the top camera facing the balloon did not get any video, and the SD cards in the IMU did not collect any data. However, these can be fixed once we have found the sources of error and therefore the next launch will be even more successful!

We also made some very important friends who will help us greatly in the upcoming year. We will be collaborating with Jim Latshaw, the science teacher at Dayville High, and Dennis, the owner of the R.V. park. They were incredibly kind and spectacular, and we are very grateful to be working with them.

Our goals for the future:

  • Reach 100,000 ft.
  • Have a camera facing the balloon and have it video the entire time
  • Have the SD cards in the IMU collect data
  • Do some tethered and practice launches with the NASA payload

The upcoming year is going to be very exciting and filled with lots of launches!