Day of field work for UMaine eclipse projects highlighted by media

Maine Public and WABI detailed the efforts of the University of Maine High Altitude Ballooning program to capture images and data of the April 8 total solar eclipse using a balloon with testing camera, data collection, control and tracking systems attached to it. The article from Maine Public stated the biggest challenge for the ballooning team was the wind. They launched near a sugar shack north of Jackman, a location they didn’t pinpoint until Friday, April 5, and picked up payloads from the balloon near Dexter. Bangor Daily News shared the report from Maine Public. 

WFVX (Fox 22 in Bangor) highlighted the experience of UMaine graduate students who captured images and data of the eclipse from Jackman as part of the the Citizen Continental-America Telescope Eclipse 2024 (CATE2024) project funded by NASA, for which Versant Power Astronomy Center Director Shawn Laatsch served as the northeast regional coordinator. “It’s kind of hard to find words after that,” said student Andrew Teller. “First of all, it was way too short. It felt like it was five seconds. I was having trouble fixing my telescope and focusing it. Turns out, it was because I had tears in my eyes.” 

Another article from Maine Public focused on Laatsch and his team of graduate students working on the CATE2024 project. Laatsch oversaw teams deployed across New England and taught them how to use equipment, which they will keep, with UMaine Ph.D. student Nikita Saini. Beyond research, the goal of the program is to extend educational access to underserved communities in the astronomy and STEM fields. “[Millinocket] is a proud community, but also pretty impoverished in a lot of ways,” said Kyle Leathers, a social studies teacher at Stearns Junior High in Millinocket. The groups who participated in CATE2024 were able to keep the telescopes provided to them for the project. “Definitely a large portion of our population is under the poverty line, so it makes it hard [for the school] to get things that aren’t necessary. Like this astronomy equipment just would not have been on anybody’s radar to purchase.” BDN shared the report.