Boise science teacher captures moon shadow in eclipse images from 45,000 feet

Posted at 9:00 PM, Sep 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-05 23:00:30-04

With the Great American Eclipse of 2017 now behind us, many are already looking forward to the total solar eclipse crossing the U.S. in 2024, but one Boise science teacher is still studying the phenomenon from August with breathtaking images from above.

Treasure Valley Mathematics and Science Center teacher Paul Verhage sent a weather balloon 45,000 feet into the atmosphere over the Treasure Valley during the August 21st eclipse to record data and images with advanced technology.

Preparations for Verhage's 173rd weather balloon launch began in February.

Verhage launched from the Ontario airport, providing stunning images of the moon's shadow as it greeted the Gem State at 2,000 miles an hour.

"I knew lots of people would try to look at the eclipse with visible light, but I figured almost no one, and maybe nobody, would look through near infrared," Verhage said.

The technology allows the image to show the earth's surface without interference from the atmosphere.

"Wow! It was great to be able to get the actual image and see a round shadow about 70 miles across, which is the shadow of the moon on the ground," Verhage said.

Something that surprised Verhage, though, was no measurable temperature change in the upper atmosphere during totality.

"I was hoping there might be and I could measure it, but the air temperature didn't change," Verhage said. "The air temperature on the ground changed but in near-space in the atmosphere, the temperature didn't respond at all."

After viewing his first total solar eclipse from the ground and the upper atmosphere, Verhage is already marking the total eclipse of 2024 on his calendar, determined to fly again.

"It's a school day again! So I'll take the week off and save up my vacation time to do that again," Verhage said.

Next time, he plans to add more cameras to the device, potentially even a 360 degree camera to create a time lapse video of the moon's shadow as it passes over Texas.