Total solar eclipse bringing experts and learning opportunities to eastern Idaho


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On Aug. 21 the Earth will cross the shadow of the moon, creating a total solar eclipse. Eclipses happen about every six months, but this one is special. For the first time in almost 40 years, the path of the moon’s shadow passes through the continental United States. | Courtesy NASA

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is the sixth in an ongoing series about preparations for the full solar eclipse on Aug. 21 is eastern Idaho.

The total solar eclipse promises to bring enthusiasts, experts, teachers and students together in eastern Idaho. Here are just a few of the events going on around the area designed to teach people about astronomy and the eclipse.

Perhaps one of the most exciting things happening is the opportunity for those interested in the eclipse to hear from the experts.

RELATED: 10 things that will likely happen in east Idaho on eclipse weekend

The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory has teamed up with the Museum of Idaho to bring in a few of its experts.

Kevin Hussey, the Manager for Visualization Technology Application and Development at JPL, Dr. Randii Wessen, the Lead Study Architect for JPL’s Innovation Foundry’s A-Team and Dr. Jim Green, the Planetary Science Division Director are slated to speak at the Museum of Idaho on Aug 18, 19 and 20.

Wessen told he plans to give a presentation on some of the possibilities of space exploration missions in the future.

“I was going to give people a glimpse into what some future missions could be,” Wessen said. “These are not approved, these are not even proposed. We’re just talking about some technologies that can do some pretty wild stuff.”

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An example of one these future missions, he said, is exploring the oceans under the ice that covers Europa, a moon orbiting Jupiter.

“(The science community) thinks the most interesting place to explore is not swimming in the ocean, it’s not driving along the ocean floor, it’s right underneath the ice,” Wessen said. “One of the technologies we’re working on is a rover that floats. You’d put it into that water and it would float up and drive along the bottom of the ice.”

CLICK HERE to view the Museum of Idaho’s calendar of events

The Museum of Idaho is not the only one teaming up with NASA.

Craters of the Moon national monument is working with NASA and Idaho State University to offer an opportunity to view the eclipse at Bottolfsen Park in Arco.

ISU University Volcanologist and NASA scientist Scott Hughes will give a presentation at Craters of the Moon on the space science research that goes on there.

Students in the BYU-Idaho Physics department have teamed up with Weber State University’s Dr. John Sohl and his students to observe the eclipse from the edge of space via specialized helium balloon.

RELATED: If you’re hoping to see the eclipse, remember to protect your eyes

The plan, according to a BYU-I press release, is to have one team send the balloon up to over 100,000 feet and video the eclipse with six goPro cameras. A second team will be positioned downwind to collect the balloon.

“This is a great project with so many opportunities for students and I am really grateful to be a part of building it,” said Aileen Godfrey, a BYU-I senior from Loomis, California and team leader for the balloon project, according to the press release.

Even Boise State University will start classes late the day of the eclipse to allow students the opportunity to view it from campus, though, BSU is south of the “path of totality.”

For information about eclipse-related information specific to eastern Idaho, visit