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Media Invited to View Preparations and Takeoff NASA Solar Eclipse Flights

As Americans head outside for the solar eclipse on Aug. 21, two NASA research planes will take to the sky to gather the clearest images of the Sun’s outer atmosphere to date.

Media are invited to view the pre-flight preparations and takeoff of the two planes, and talk with the flight team and scientists at NASA Hangar 990 at Ellington Field, near NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, on the day of the eclipse.

U.S. reporters who wish to participate must contact the Johnson newsroom by 5 p.m. CDT Thursday, Aug. 17.

The planes, two of NASA’s WB-57 jets, will take off around 10:15 a.m. and fly to Kansas City, Missouri, in time to follow the path of the total eclipse through Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and into Tennessee. Traveling more than 400 miles per hour and 50 miles apart, the two aircraft will spend a combined total of more than seven minutes in total eclipse, compared to about two and a half minutes for observers on the ground. And because they’ll be at an altitude of about 50,000 feet, they’ll be well above any weather obstructions.

Each WB-57 will carry high-definition video imaging systems that will be pointed at the Sun when the planes are in total eclipse, in hopes of getting clearer images of the Sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona, than has ever been possible before. When in partial eclipse, the system will be trained on other celestial bodies that are usually obscured in daytime by the Sun’s brightness, such as Mercury. The project should capture the first-ever thermal images of the planet.

Video taken by the planes while they are in totality – around 1:16 to 1:20 p.m. – will be sent to the ground for inclusion in NASA TV coverage of the eclipse. Coverage begins at 11 a.m. Aug. 21.

Find out where and how to view NASA TV programming at:

Spot more information on NASA’s Solar Eclipse activities at:


Brandi Dean
Johnson Space Center, Houston