Utah cadet teens teaming up with NASA to collect data during solar eclipse

Oct 13, 2023, 11:16 AM | Updated: 11:35 am

WEST JORDAN —  While many Utahns have plans to trek to the central and southern part of the state to catch the annular solar eclipse Saturday, a group of Utah cadet teens won’t just be looking up at the sky– they’ll be helping the future of aerospace and science.

On Thursday evening, the Civil Air Patrol Phoenix Cadet Squadron gathered at the Utah National Guard building in West Jordan for a practice run of sorts.

The sky may have already been too dark to see, but the mission was crystal clear.

“We are actually training for the solar eclipse on Saturday,” explained Cadet Airman First Class Danielle Seaman.

She stood outside in the parking lot, communicating to other members of her team via radio.

Inside, the other half of her squadron was testing out eclipse glasses and weather instruments.

Airman Andrew Johnson held up a device that measures wind. He blew into it to test it out.

“This is meters per second,” he said, looking down at the red palm-sized instrument.

Johnson, Seaman, and everyone else will be recording wind, temperature, and other weather stats during the eclipse.

“We’ll be recording the effects of the sun and the solar flares during the eclipse,” he explained. They will be testing to see how those flares affect weather and radio communication. They’ll be taking measurements before, during, and after the eclipse.

Airman Andrew Johnson, far left, stands with his squadron as they test weather instruments and hold recording sheets ahead of Saturday’s eclipse (KSL TV)

The data isn’t just for fun, it’ll actually be put to real scientific use.

“We’re working with NASA, and that’s super cool to be doing,” Johnson said.

Half of the squadron will reconvene at the Utah National Guard building in West Jordan Saturday, while the others will head down to Snow College in Richfield. They’ll meet up with other Civil Air Patrol cadets from five states to conduct that research.

The squadron explained that NASA will use the data this team and 180 others across the country collect as part of the Globe Observer Project.

While some of the data they collect is very specialized, the squadron said the general public can join in and gather basic measurements to report back to NASA as part of the citizen science project.

The results are expected to be released in 2024.

For Seaman, seeing the ‘ring of fire’ will be awesome in and of itself.

“People have to travel to come out here to see that,” she said. “We don’t, so that’s very cool.”

And to be on a mission like this, will give her an even cooler way to experience the eclipse.

“We’re like younger kids working with NASA and stuff, so that’s a pretty, pretty big thing,” she said. “It’s very exciting, too, especially when we all like aerospace and stuff. And so, it’s really fun to work with a big corporation like that.”

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Utah cadet teens teaming up with NASA to collect data during solar eclipse