Students and professors at Plymouth State participate in NASA’s Nationwide Eclipse Ballooning Project

Imani Fleming

Researchers and students from 19 colleges across the country are one step closer to discovering what happens to the Earth’s atmosphere during a solar eclipse.

The Nationwide Eclipse Ballooning Project is a NASA-funded experiment that supports college teams that took part in scientific ballooning during Saturday’s solar eclipse.

The goal of the project is to create inclusive STEM education for participating students and to strengthen their understanding of Earth’s climate during an annual eclipse.

There are two teams of students and staff from Plymouth State University taking part in the project. Both teams combined their love of art and climate to create a piece that will be displayed in the Museum of the White Mountains in Plymouth in fall 2024.

“We were running around the field in different areas of our set up and sliding our art and making our art in different places. And catching the shadow of the crescent shape of the eclipse,” said Sarah Brigandi, an art education student at PSU.

Some students say the experience is once in a lifetime.

“There’s really hardly any words to describe it. It was phenomenal. When it reached the full angularity, you could see a ring of fire around the moon,” said Alaina Adderley, a PSU student studying meteorology.

Eric Kelsey, a research associate professor at PSU, says this singular project serves as an opportunity for students with different interests, like science and the arts, to work together towards achieving the same goal.

“There’s light and there’s darkness and there’s weather involved and so much beauty in the natural world that just all comes together,” he said.

He says this weekend is just the start of what their team has planned.

“This is just the warm-up for April 8 when the total solar eclipse is going to cross from Mexico through Texas and, of course, through northern New England and northern New Hampshire and we will be up in Pittsburg for that to do the very same thing,” he said.

Plymouth State University is the only university involved in the Nationwide Eclipse Ballooning Project with two teams. They’re also the only school incorporating the arts into the project.