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Saturday April 1st

NCSU launched weather balloon for eclipse

<p>NC State researchers launched a weather balloon 15 minutes after the eclipse on Monday. Photo courtesy of NCSU College of Sciences.</p>
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NC State researchers launched a weather balloon 15 minutes after the eclipse on Monday. Photo courtesy of NCSU College of Sciences.

NC State's Sounding Club released a weather balloon 15 minutes after the peak of the eclipse  Monday to collect data about the atmosphere during an eclipse.

The club partnered with the NCSU College of Sciences to host an eclipse celebration in the school's Brickyard, where they launched the balloon. 

Thousands of people came to the celebration to watch the eclipse, and hundreds of students gathered in a circle around members of the club as they launched the balloon. Scientists attending the event passed out over 1,000 eclipse viewing glasses.

Brian Vaughn, a senior Environmental Studies major at UNC attended the event during a class he takes on State’s campus.

“Being at the event definitely left the impression that the student body and the NC State community in general was really excited about the eclipse,” said Vaughn. “The other thing I noticed was it wasn’t just State students, it seemed like a lot of families were there, people setting up picnics.”  

The club's goal was to collect atmospheric data about the effect of the eclipse on the climate, said Michael Mugrage, president of the Sounding Club. 

“What we were hoping to gain from this was to see the exact impact on the near surface conditions with respect to temperature, dew point and humidity,” Mugrage said. “Just how much of an impact the blocking of solar radiation from the eclipse itself had on the environmental conditions.”

The club was inspired by the Eclipse Ballooning Project occurring across the country during the eclipse and subsequently partnered with the State Climate Office and College of Sciences to arrange the launch, said Mugrage.

The radiosonde — a tool used to measure the atmosphere — on the balloon malfunctioned after the launch, and the club was unable to collect atmospheric data. 

The State Climate Office of North Carolina and RDU were able to register the four-degree temperature drop during the eclipse, said Shae McLamb, vice president of the Sounding Club.  

McLamb said the club successfully used weather balloon data to aid local and national weather predictions in the past. 

“We’ve done a lot of stuff with our national weather service and with our graduate researchers basically to help out with forecasting during events and also looking forward to the future and look at how we can better predict events in the future,” McLamb said.

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