Seven engineering students from the University of Alabama (UC) have teamed up with NASA to better understand the great American total solar eclipse going to happen on Monday, August 21, 2017. These students will launch a large balloon equipped with a video camera from the South Carolina State University to record the astronomical event about 80,000 – 100,000 feet in the air. The team has named their scientific project as Project Fenrir after a wolf in Norse mythology that is believed to have abilities to swallow the sun.

Balloon will be equipped with two cameras

According to Team Fenrir, their balloon is equipped with two cameras—one pointed at the ground to film moon’s shadow and the second to capture the sun. The video of the solar eclipse will be streamed live over the internet. The balloon will also record the temperature of the air outside to understand the effect of a total solar eclipse, if any, on high altitude temperature.

According to Morgan Minton, instructor in the UA Freshman Engineering program, this scientific experiment will allow students to test their skills in the real world and make them better prepared for the work environment.

Members of Team Fenrir have been preparing for this scientific project since 2016.

The team has already carried out three test flights of the balloon to ensure that their device works smoothly on August 21st.

Members of Team Fenrir

Members of Team Fenrir include: (1) Danielle Carter, a student in aerospace engineering; (2) Evan Terry, student in telecommunications and film; (3) Wesley Cooper, a student in mechanical engineering; (4) Chandler Nichols, a student in aerospace engineering; (5) Ryan Burns, a student in aerospace engineering; and (6) Annelise Frank, a student in computer engineering.

On Monday, Team Fenvir will not be the only team in the world to launch a balloon to track the solar eclipse. Many other teams in the US and other countries are also working with NASA to send approximately 75 balloons about 80,000 feet in the air. Nearly three dozens of these balloons will be carrying a highly resilient strain of bacteria to understand how these bacteria would behave at high-altitudes or on other planets, such as Mars.

Angela Des Jardins, Director of the Montana Space Grant Consortium, says bacteria are not expected to survive a journey from Earth to other planet in the Universe, but there is a possibility that some resilient types go ‘dormant' on such a trip and are able to survive on other planet. Jardins suggests such balloon experiments might play an important role in understanding how bacteria would behave on other planets.