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Team of South Dakotan students to analyze upcoming eclipse for NASA

Lori Rabbitt
SDPB Flickr

One month from now a solar eclipse will cut across the southwestern United States. Thanks to a nationwide NASA project, some South Dakotans will be in on the show.

Students from South Dakota Mines, Spearfish High School, Lakota Tech, and Newcastle, Wyoming will travel New Mexico for the upcoming eclipse.

Peggy Norris, the former deputy director of education at the Sanford Underground Lab will lead the trip. She says they’re going to Farmington with a mission from NASA.

“NASA has some specific goals to take some scientific data during the eclipse of the changes in the atmospheric conditions – like how it gets cool, and what happens at 85,000 feet where the balloon is,” Norris said.

Norris says launching a balloon in the wilds of New Mexico could be a struggle.

“The terrain to go get our payload afterwards and to launch is not going to be nice and flat like the plains of South Dakota," Norris said. "So, that might lead to some interesting challenges.”

This is Norris’s seventeenth eclipse, and her second collaborating with NASA and students – but even she expects something new this time around.

“It’s not a full total eclipse – it’s called an annular eclipse, so it doesn’t cover up all the light," Norris said. "For that eclipse we’re going to see what you call a ‘ring of fire.’ I’ve never actually seen an annular eclipse before, so this’ll be a new one for me.”

Norris says the students plan to set up a livestream so people outside of the eclipse path can tune in on October 14.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture