Aerial Eclipse Balloon

So this comedy of errors was thrown together in a big hurry. Foreshadowing: It didn’t work (well, the eclipse did), but it’s a rare opportunity to see a total eclipse so conveniently nearby! We traveled to Greenville to view with Amanda’s (& my!) sister and the rest of the family. The plan was to do our first helium balloon launch/recovery- but rather than the usual view of the sun from the earth, I wanted a view of the earth becoming enveloped in shadow.

I’d done a bit of last minute research, picked up a helium tank and thrown together a foam prototype with a cheap android phone that I planned to float and recover. By the time we got on the road I’d discovered the regulator I had in mind wouldn’t fit and I didn’t have time to modify it.

Well, crap. In theory, I could potentially fill this balloon with the tiniest of a crack of the valve- the volume I had with me should be just about right to fill the whole balloon if I could just get it in there. Anyway- after much unnecessary hemming & hawing about location, I chose the most random open field I could find and instead of a convenient paved surface ventured into the woods only to park on a giant anthill filled with angry ants who don’t like astronomy.

Its probably realistic to place some of the failure blame on the ants as I promptly exploded the base of the weather balloon off in my haste to get things floating. With everything else compromised at this point I just kind of threw up my hands and instead floated the flashy cool foam assembly- now empty but at least flying. That’s about all the payload budget I had left after the rest of this disaster.

Anyway- so in conclusions many lessons were learned- we had enough time to get back to Jessie’s and settle in for a conventional eclipse show which was awesome as expected. Delilah was an infant at the time so her opinion was “waaaaah” but seeing the world turn to night mid-afternoon was pretty amazing.

I’d actually scanned her face while she was asleep and custom printed some glasses frames for the occasion that fit her specifically. That part worked out ok- and I can put any assortment of round filters in there too. Still, she would appreciate all this much more now that she’s 2. Oh well.

I did my best to capture some interesting timelapse footage & what not, and had modified my little telescope to capture it too, so I left with some footage but to this day I’m still a little salty about the plan going that far south. I already have a new weather balloon. We’ll get ’em next time!