BRIDGEPORT — Chicagoans will be able to get a glimpse of the solar eclipse Monday. But if that's not enough, a local team of amateur astronomers will launch a device that will livestream the eclipse as seen from "near space."
The group, which is affiliated with the South Side Hackerspace facility in Bridgeport, was able to join a NASA program to monitor the solar eclipse from many vantage points. The crew, which calls itself the Remote Astonaut Crew, was the only team selected by NASA that is not affiliated with a university or research facility, project leader Matthew Wendeln said.
"I can't believe it," said Wendeln, a technology consultant. "Having the chance to be apart of a NASA project is so cool."
There are 40-plus teams involved in the project, but the local team is one of about a dozen that will launch a livestreaming camera into the top of Earth's atmosphere. They'll have a 36-degree camera on board for a virtual realty component as well, Wendeln said.
Those on the ground will be able to see live views of the eclipse from throughout the country in what Wendeln said is like to be spectacular vantage points.
To accomplish their mission, the crew will have to successfully launch a high-alititude balloon carrying the camera equipment. They'll launch from Carbondale in Southern Illinois, considered the best spot in the state to see the eclipse.
Accomplishing such a feat requires a lot of skill and resources, especially for a group of amateurs, Wendeln said.
"The point is to capture the eclipse from near space," he said. "It's a humongous effort. Most of the other teams are, like, physics departments."
The hackerspace team has launched a fundraising effort for the project, which is seeking $11,000. Unlike most of the other teams, NASA did not provide a grant to them, Wendeln said. (You can donate here.)
It will be an expensive endeavor for the crew. But an eclipse is a rare enough occurrence. Getting to team with NASA is even more rare.
"Part of what makes this so unique, America doesn't get total eclipses streaking across the country like this," Wendeln said. "The conditions are kind of perfect."