Scientists Pursue the Total Solar Eclipse with NASA Jet Planes

In the past, solar eclipses have driven numerous scientific discoveries. For this solar eclipse, NASA is funding several scientific experiments – including the three using the WB-57s – to make measurements during the eclipse. NASA’s WB-57s fly much higher than commercial aircraft. This altitude allows the jets to fly above clouds – meaning no chance of missing the eclipse due to bad weather. Additionally, the height puts the jets above most of Earth’s atmosphere, which allows for the cameras to take crisper images and capture wavelengths, such as infrared light, that don’t make it to the ground. Since the planes can travel at 460 miles per hour, they’re also able to extend the time they spend in the Moon’s shadow. While the eclipse will last no more than four and a half minutes at any point on the ground, the planes will see an eclipse that lasts about 25 percent longer, over 6 minutes and 22 seconds.

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