NASA jets will chase solar eclipse at 50,000 feet

Published: Aug. 21, 2017 at 8:48 AM CDT
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The best view of the eclipse will not come from the ground but the skies.

Cary Klemm is of four NASA flight crew members that will get the view of a lifetime.

They will be chasing the eclipse over Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky at 400 miles an hour in 1960s-era former bomber jets.

"My job is to calibrate and initialize the camera payload that we'll be using to look at the eclipse. That includes focusing and zooming in to get the best shot," says, Klemm.

All crew members will be wearing solar eclipse glasses during the flight.

Klem says, "It's actually even more important to wear the eclipse glasses at high altitudes. There's less air to block the sun, and the sun's a lot stronger."

The planes will be outfitted with special cameras in their nose cones so the planes can get a good look at the solar corona, the outer atmosphere of the sun.

NASA says the results of this flight will lead to a better understanding of the corona, which will eventually lead to a better understanding of flares and coronal mass ejections.

The best way to understand what erupts off the sun's corona - is to photograph it over long periods of time - but ground-based cameras will only have about two minutes of total eclipse time.

Since two planes will be flying tandem along the eclipse path, scientists will have an unprecedented look at the sun.