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SUNY Oswego research team to launch balloons for NASA during eclipse

A total solar eclipse.
A total solar eclipse.

The once-in-a-generation total solar eclipse is less than a week away, and most Central New Yorkers are preparing to observe the rare spectacle. But scientists are also eager to study the unique conditions created by a solar eclipse. Professor Shashi Kanbur is director of the SUNY Oswego Astronomy program.

"The eclipse will lead to a change in temperature conditions and that might lead to columns of air rising or falling and that can initiate this gravity wave which will go up into the atmosphere,” Kanbur said.

Physicists say understanding these gravitational waves can help improve weather forecasts, which is why studying them is quite similar to studying the weather. Kanbur is a faculty member of a research team selected by NASA to be part of their National Eclipse Ballooning Project. They’ll be sending out balloons hourly to measure changes in gravitational waves throughout the day of the eclipse, regardless of the weather.

Along with that, Kanbur says SUNY Oswego is setting up telescopes at its Rice Creek Field Station, including a 16-inch Meade reflecting telescope.

"With the help of the Syracuse Astronomical Society actually we’ll set that up to view the eclipse," Kanbur said. "We’ll have the appropriate solar filter on that so that it doesn’t get damaged by continuously monitoring the sun for a couple hours, and we’ll be livestreaming the images from that.” 

A smaller telescope will also be available at Rice Creek for people to observe the eclipse.

Kanbur hopes the eclipse can inspire or renew the public’s trust in science. Social media is ablaze with worries of everything from internet outages and governments enacting martial law to so-called “eclipse sickness.” But Kanpur says faith in science has led to triumphs in predicting astronomical events like this.

“We can predict the time that it will be in the Earth’s shadow and we can predict the path," Kanbur said. "That is a terrific triumph of science and people should put their faith in science. It’s not always right, it sometimes gets things wrong, but the beauty of it is it can correct itself with new data.”

There will be numerous events in Syracuse and across the region where Central New Yorkers can observe the eclipse. For example, Solar Street near the Inner Harbor is hosting an event with food trucks and live music. The Museum of Science and Technology is hosting a Solar Eclipse Festival, and schools on the Syracuse University campus will be hosting observing events between 1 and 4 pm.

For those who can’t make the trek to Oswego for the eclipse, the Pompey Observatory will be livestreaming the views from the telescopes on their YouTube channel.


Matt Salerno is an undergraduate studying Broadcast and Digital Journalism at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, expected to graduate in May 2025. As a contributor, he helps produce content for WAER. In his free time, Matt plays and listens to jazz and bebop music and climbs at the Barnes Center's rock climbing gym.
Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at