NASA To Launch Rockets Into The Path Of Upcoming Solar Eclipse

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NASA is planning to launch three sounding rockets during Monday's (April 8) total solar eclipse to gather data about how the rare event affects the ionosphere.

NASA said it will launch the first rocket 45 minutes before the eclipse starts, the second during the eclipse, and the third 45 minutes after the total eclipse ends. The rockets will be launched from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia and reach an altitude of 260 miles.

The rockets are equipped with scientific payloads to measure the charged and neutral particle density and surrounding electric and magnetic fields in the ionosphere.

"It's an electrified region that reflects and refracts radio signals and also impacts satellite communications as the signals pass through," mission leader Aroh Barjatya, a professor of engineering physics at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida, said in a statement. "Understanding the ionosphere and developing models to help us predict disturbances is crucial to making sure our increasingly communication-dependent world operates smoothly."

The path of totality is about 115 miles wide and will stretch across 13 states from Texas to Maine. Even those outside of the path of totality will be able to see a partial eclipse.

The next total solar eclipse visible in the United States will be in 2044.

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