It's not just astronomy nerds who are preparing for the total solar eclipse in August. Scientists are also using the event, which has not occurred in Missouri since 1442, as an opportunity to gather data.
St. Louis is one of 30 locations across the U.S. where scientists will launch large balloons into the upper layers of the Earth's atmosphere during the eclipse, as a part of the NASA and NSF-sponsored Eclipse Ballooning Project. On Tuesday afternoon, Saint Louis University and Jefferson College researchers performed a test-run of their balloon, which will carry a radiosonde, an instrument that measures wind speed, humidity, barometric pressure and other conditions of the atmosphere. They will also be using Ameren Missouri's network of weather monitoring stations, called Quantum Weather.
"The idea here is that there's a really large response on the part of the atmosphere whenever we lose sunlight," said Robert Pasken, a SLU meteorology professor who is leading the effort in St. Louis. "All of us are going to try and make a coordinated effort to collect data as the eclipse happens and as it disappears."
Parts of Missouri will lose sunlight for about two-and-a -half minutes during the eclipse. Temperatures could suddenly drop by an average of 10 degrees, according to the American Astronomical Society.
Most of the United States will experience a partial lunar eclipse, but Columbia and a portion of the St. Louis metro area lie directly on the path of totality, or the path by which the moon completely covers the sun.