Following a successful experience during the 2017 solar eclipse, the Wyoming Space Grant is once again participating in the Nationwide Eclipse Ballooning Project (NEBP) for the 2023–2024 solar eclipse cycle. The NEBP, led by the Montana Space Grant, is supported by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate Science Activation program and by NASA’s Space Grant College and Fellowship program. More than 50 teams from 75 different institutions across the United States are participating this time around.

NEBP teams have chosen to either pursue the engineering track or the atmospheric science track. Those doing the engineering track will attempt to stream live video footage from the stratosphere along the path of totality during the 8 April 2024 total solar eclipse. They will use large high-altitude balloons to carry their streaming equipment to 70,000+ ft above sea level, where the onboard cameras will have a spectacular as the eclipse shadow traverses across the landscape below. Teams who have chosen the atmospheric science track will fly hourly radiosondes on smaller weather balloons for 30+ consecutive hours around the eclipse. The radiosonde data will later be analyzed to better understand how the eclipse affects Earth’s atmosphere.

We are supporting three teams in Wyoming for the 2023–24 NEBP. Two of these teams, led by faculty from Casper College and Central Wyoming College, have received partial support from us and are both engineering track. For the total eclipse, they are planning to launch their balloons from a location in southeast Oklahoma. We are also leading the “UW Space Cowboys” atmospheric science team from the University of Wyoming. For the total eclipse, we are planning to launch our radiosonde balloons from a location in northwest Ohio.


Our atmospheric science team is comprised of eight undergraduate students from UW, two mentors on staff with the Wyoming Space Grant, and a graduate student mentor from the UW Department of Physics & Astronomy. Six of the eight undergraduate participants are women, and seven of the eight are majoring in STEM. The project is structured to provide these students with a plethora of hands-on learning experiences and other opportunities for both personal and career growth. Each student has a specific role (e.g., data analysis, programming/coding, social media, outreach, etc.), allowing everyone to contribute directly to the team’s success.

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Moments before annularity
Our team of students
One of the night launches in Richfield


After many hours of practice and preparation during the spring, summer, and early fall of 2023, the Space Cowboys embarked on Richfield, UT, in October 2023 to launch radiosondes during the annular solar eclipse. We flew 30 radiosondes in 30 hours, both day and night, from the sports complex on the campus of Snow College. We shared a launch site with the two Wyoming engineering track teams, who successfully flew their live stream balloons during the eclipse. While in Richfield, our team also engaged in outreach with local middle and high school students. To cap it off, we witnessed a spectacular annular eclipse with nearly perfect viewing conditions. Our students raved about the experience and how much they were looking forward to the total eclipse just 6 months later.


Unlike the 2017 total eclipse, which passed through the middle of Wyoming, the 2024 total eclipse will pass through the eastern half of the United States, from Texas to Maine. Our team will be traveling to Bluffton, OH, to launch our radiosondes and watch the eclipse. While in Ohio, we once again plan to engage local students in outreach activities. Totality on April 8 will last for 3 minutes 45 seconds, beginning shortly after 3:00pm local time. Since this eclipse occurs later in the day than the annular eclipse, we expect to see more pronounced changes in our atmospheric measurements as the eclipse shadow inhibits afternoon solar heating. We also hope that our data can be used to detect atmospheric gravity waves produced by the eclipse itself, which is a primary research objective of the NEBP.

Our surface weather station


Each of our weather balloons carries a small 70-gram radiosonde package. They are the same radiosondes currently used by the National Weather Service for their daily weather balloon flights. The radiosondes are outfitted with various sensors to measure temperature, humidity, air pressure, wind speed and direction, altitude, latitude, and longitude during flight. They transmit their data back to our launch site every 1 second via radio signals, which our laptops can then decode using special equipment and software. A typical radiosonde will ascent through the atmosphere for ~2 hours, reaching altitudes of 110,000+ feet above sea level. Eventually, the balloon bursts and the radiosonde slowly parachutes back to the ground. After the flight, the data can be analyzed to assess, among other things, how temperature and humidity changed with altitude.

We also operate a surface weather station at our launch site. It measures temperature, humidity, air pressure, wind speed and direction, and solar radiation every 2 seconds at a height of 2 meters above ground level. While the radiosonde measurements will allow us to monitor changes in the upper atmosphere before, during, and after the eclipse, this weather station allows us to continuously monitor atmospheric changes right near the ground.


Undergraduate Students

  • Sydney BenChaabane – Anthropology
  • Riley Geldean – Chemical Engineering
  • David Gordon– Astronomy & Astrophysics
  • Hunter Kindt – Mechanical Engineering
  • Amelia Myers – Astronomy & Astrophysics
  • Erin Poyer – Mechanical Engineering
  • Carson Rardin – Statistics
  • Samantha Smith – Computer Engineering


  • Phil Bergmaier – Wyoming Space Grant
  • Lauren Kim – Physics PhD Student
  • Shawna McBride – Wyoming Space Grant