Local group's weather balloon will offer stunning images of eclipse

August 11, 2017 06:53 PM

The event of a lifetime that will blanket states across the country is just ten days away.

While many are buying solar sunglasses to catch the eclipse on August 21, one group in Canandaigua is capturing this rare event by launching a weather balloon.

Tory Carissimo is a full-time engineer. But during his free time, he's busy as the project leader of the non-profit group "Overlook Horizon". Right now they are busy preparing to bring you those stunning images of the solar eclipse.

Tory Carissimo: “Just to be able to hold the equipment in your hand afterwards and know that it went to the edge of space is a pretty awesome feeling.”

In about a week, once again, Tory’s weather balloon will hover in the atmosphere.

Tory Carissimo: “We'll have a camera facing the sun for the flight, so we'll get footage from up above the clouds of the partial eclipse happening.”

Equipped with a parachute and three GoPro cameras, the unmanned balloon is set to be in the air for at least three hours, capturing the moment when the moon passes between the sun and earth.

Tory Carissimo: “This will be the first eclipse for us so we're pretty excited to have that unique opportunity because it kind of just came together when we just happen to start the whole project.”

Since it's unmanned, Tory cannot control where the balloon lands so it gets pretty tricky.

Tory Carissimo: “We try to avoid big lakes. We try to avoid major cities, major air space… How high it goes and how fast it goes we can control based on how much helium we put in the balloons.”

He says it's a lot of work, but who can pass up this once in a lifetime opportunity?

Tory Carissimo: “It gets really stressful during the launch and it's exciting afterwards to see all the footage and everything else.”

Tory says they have not decided on where they will launch their balloon for the solar eclipse yet. If you are interested in joining them for this exciting day check out their website.

If you don't have a weather balloon, you are going to need eclipse glasses. The glasses are flying off the shelves, but with all the excitement, NASA has issued a warning against fake solar viewing glasses that could damage your eyes.

So how can you spot a fake? Experts say the best way to spot a fake is to test them out.

Dr. Ajay Kuriyan is a retina specialist at URMC. "If you put them on, the only thing you could see is the light from the sun. So even if you have a very bright light and you put it on you shouldn’t be able to see that.”

If you can see anything else through the film, that's a fake. Another thing to look for: glasses that are certified for solar viewing are marked with "ISO".

If you're planning on watching this rare astronomical event, experts warn it can cause permanent vision damage if you do not take proper precaution.

“What's missing here in the eye that's been damaged from the sunlight is this area right here, right in the center part of your vision. And you could see compared to the normal eye there's a bright line over there,” says Dr. Kuriyan.

So where can you get safe solar eclipse glasses?

More than 2 million pairs of safe solar eclipse glasses are being given away for free at thousands of public libraries across the country including about a dozen in our area. These glasses were provided by the Space Science Institute.

Anna Souannavong is the assistant director at Gates Public Library. “When people were getting wind that we were handing these out we were just getting phone calls left and right about them so we were trying to balance out how we were trying to handle that.”

The Gates Public Library also offers different programs to teach people about the solar eclipse and how to protect your eyes before the big event on August 21.

“This event doesn’t happen very often so you know it's happened so quickly. We're so glad that we prepared ourselves to be able to provide these glasses to our patrons.”


Here is the complete list of libraries providing free solar viewing glasses.


Nina Porciuncula

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