Eastern Michigan University students prepare high-altitude weather balloon launch for solar eclipse viewing and data analysis on April 8

Public invited to experience eclipse through livestream video

Silhouettes of students releasing a weather balloon into the air.

YPSILANTI — As the highly anticipated solar eclipse approaches on April 8, 2024, Eastern Michigan University students are gearing up to launch a high-altitude weather balloon in Ohio to capture a once-in-a-lifetime glimpse of the solar eclipse under the guidance of EMU Physics Professor Dave Pawlowski and atmospheric scientist Tom Kovacs. This initiative is part of the NASA-funded Nationwide Eclipse Ballooning Project, led by Montana State University, which aims to capture data during the solar eclipse.

“The high-altitude weather balloon launch is the culmination of a year and a half of work by  EMU Atmospheric Physics Exploration (EMU APEx) students,” said Pawlowski. “We are flight-testing new hardware as part of NASA's Nationwide Eclipse Ballooning Project while collecting data to help us better understand how the atmosphere changes during solar eclipses.”

EMU is among 70 other institutions selected to participate in the balloon project. The project is designed to bring together STEM learners from various higher education institutions in an innovative NASA-mission-like adventure in data acquisition and analysis through scientific ballooning during the 2023 and 2024 total solar eclipses.

The EMU team, comprised of 12 students, will travel to Ohio this weekend to identify an optimal launch site. After launch, the helium-filled balloon will travel about 80,000 feet above the Earth's surface. At this point, the team will send it a vent command to release some of the helium and attempt to make it float. Pawlowski said, “This will give us the best opportunity to observe waves that travel through the atmosphere caused by the sudden decrease in sunlight during totality.”

EMU APEx was established by Pawlowski and Kovacs, who teach a general education course in weather and forecasting. The program was created to build a sense of community amongst EMU students who share diverse backgrounds and identities and provide EMU students with hands-on and interdisciplinary learning opportunities. 

“I can't speak highly enough about all the students who have contributed to the project,” said Pawlowski. “They have done an incredible job designing, building, troubleshooting, and testing the equipment that will be launched and should be extremely proud of this project.”

Students involved in EMU APEx include:
Miles Mercier, senior majoring in physics
Rosie Friend, senior majoring in physics research
Hannah Popofski, senior majoring in physics
Lauren Eicher, senior majoring in physics
Gianlucas Sherrill Velarde, senior majoring in physics research and math
Hamzah Al Thani, senior majoring in physics research
Axel Cartin-Paez, junior majoring in physics research
Jacob Morgan, junior majoring in mechanical engineering
Isaac Thompson, junior majoring in physics research
Olivia Tebo, sophomore majoring in urban and regional planning
Allie Muschong, junior majoring in physics research
Emma Ayotte, senior majoring in communication

Live video captured from EMU and others will be available at this link when the balloons are within range of ground-based radios. Viewers are encouraged to check back often if they don’t see live video immediately.


About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 13,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and its graduate school. National publications regularly recognize EMU for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. Visit the University’s rankings and points of pride websites to learn more. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website. To stay up to date on University news, activities and announcements, visit EMU Today.

April 02, 2024

Written by:
Melissa Thrasher

Media Contact:
Melissa Thrasher