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UPDATE: NMHS Students Capture Eclipse from Space

Aug. 23, 2017

Message from Team Leader and NMHS Teacher Robert Black:

The NMHS Eclipse Team is home after 5 days in Dayville documenting the Total Solar Eclipse. It was a great experience shared by 11 students,  4 mentors and wives, 8 parents and a film crew. We took over 200 pictures of the eclipse from the ground using 2 telescopes and took images from 80,000 - 100,000 ft. before and during the eclipse. The atmosphere was thin, no wind ( the balloons only drifted 11miles from the launch site) and there was low, low humidity. Our balloon ascended at a rate we didn't expect and we reached 100,000 ft. at totality which limited our pictures, however we still got great shots.

Hover over the images below to see their descriptions.

Totality from 80k ft.  one balloon photos the other    prominences  Corona Bailey's Beads  Diamond Ring

Seconds Before Totality

Student ready to capture eclipse  setting up for the big day

Aug. 21, 2017

North Medford High School’s (NMHS) High Altitude Balloon Team is celebrating after successfully launching two high altitude balloons into today’s solar eclipse as part of a partnership program with NASA and Montana State University. The student group is one of 55 teams nationwide capturing the solar eclipse live from space via helium balloon.

The NMHS team launched their “Tornado Payload” at 9:05 am from Dayville, Oregon, a balloon carrying video and still cameras to capture the rare astronomical event. The second balloon, the “NASA Payload,” went up at 9:15 am with equipment to live stream one portion of the eclipse path for NASA.

“The NASA stream went well at first,” said student team member Saxon Pelzel, “but it was hard to keep the stream active the whole time because the automated tracking system wasn’t working, so we had to manually figure out where the balloon was in the sky to reactivate the stream.”

The team also experienced a timing issue that led the balloon to burst sooner than expected, during the minutes of totality.

“We’ve always been slow rising, so we wanted to be high during totality and we just overcompensated,” said team leader and NMHS teacher Robert Black. “Spirits are still pretty high.”

The next step will be for the team to track and retrieve their payloads, which contain video and still photographic images. Luckily, the balloons landed close together and only about 20 minutes away from the launch site.

“It’s cool because you’re going to retrieve something that’s been in the sky for an hour and a half and that’s where all the data is, every picture and every video. It’s not a total success until we have that in our hands,” said Pelzel.

The NMHS Eclipse Team has been working on this project for almost two years. Many of the students are using the experience to fulfil senior project requirements.

Past Article

North Medford High School (NMHS) is one of only two high schools in the country chosen by NASA to launch a high altitude balloon into the total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. The NMHS team will attempt to film the event from over 80,000 feet, the equivalent of 15 miles in the air. On that day, about 50 to 70 groups of students across the U.S. will send up a wave of cameras attached to high altitude balloons in an attempt to send real-time images back to NASA for public viewing on NASA’s website.

NMHS science teacher and planetarium director, Robert Black, leads the 11-student group. “The students are preparing for the greatest astronomical event of our generation,” said Black. “At 10:17 am, the moon will block all of the light from the sun creating a few minutes of darkness.”

The group has conducted a number of test flights. See the following external sites for details, pictures, and videos:

Student Website:

Robert Black’s Webpage:


Montana State Project Site:  

June 20 Test Launch Video: