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NASA Eclipse Livestream
Jen Fowler of the Montana Space Grant Consortium joins us this week to talk about her work with weather balloons and the upcoming solar eclipse, and Jessi from Animal Wonders brings along Gaia the Southern Three-Banded Armadillo!

NASA Eclipse Livestream

List of Upcoming Eclipses:

Hosted by: Hank Green
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(SciShow Intro)

Hank: Hello and welcome to SciShow Talk Show, that day on SciShow where we talk to interesting people about interesting stuff.  Today we're talking to Jen Fowler, the assistant director of the Montana Space Grant Consortium.  I had to read your shirt.  I felt like that was the safe way to do it.  I don't know what the Montana Space Grant Consortium is, but I know that I want your t-shirt, because I like NASA and I like Montana.  

Jen: Here's how people get t-shirts.  

H: Oh, there's a way?

J: There is a way.

H: Okay.

J: There's a couple ways.  Typically, it's students in higher education.  Each state has a Space Grant Consortium.  We're under NASA Education, and we have 23 institutions in Montana.  Students apply for a scholarship, an internship, a fellowship, a research stipend, and they definitely get the t-shirt once we bring them into the program.

H: Okay, so I have to be a student.  

J: That would be your most direct way, yes.

H: I'm cutting down SciShow, I'm going back to school.  I do sometimes have that itch, like I miss research, I miss learning in a structured environment, I miss, like, the depth of, you know, academic research but I think I'm probably gonna stick with what I'm doing.  So how else can I get a t-shirt?

J: You can come on a balloon launch with us.

H: I mean, that sounds like, way easier and also fun.

J: Ohh--well, it's--I think all of it's fun.

H: Okay.

J: I mean, that's the beauty, but it is--we put you to work.  You get to--

H: Yeah, but I (?~1:27) quit my job.

J: No.  We won't make you quit your job.

H: Okay.

J: You might--well--

H: So you're--so part of the Space Grant is balloon research.

J: It is balloon research, so each--

H: And that (?~1:39)--to me, space and balloons, the immediate link might not be there for everybody.  

J: It's a good link, too, and I think that's a reasonable response.  People wouldn't necessarily think of balloons--

H: Yeah, I know balloons, it's like you, it's for parties and it's animals.

J: Yes.  So we launch a couple different sizes of balloons, depending on how heavy the payload is, just like rockets.

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Rockets, they'll go pretty fast, balloons, a little bit slower.  It takes--they take their time.  We can study the atmosphere.  They also get to a place where we generally don't fly aircraft, and they get to a place that's a little bit lower than a rocket where we can sit for a while, so we're at 30 kilometers, where our balloons are.  

H: Okay.  Do you know how high Felix Baumgartner was when he jumped out a balloon?  

J: I--it's gonna be a guess.  I did look at that, and I thought it was somewhere around 70,000 feet.

H: 70,000 feet?  Well, I can't convert that to kilometers.

J: Yeah, I'm doing lots of conversions here.  I'm playing it fast and loose with you, see if you're keeping up with me.  So, 30km, about 90,000 feet.  

H: Okay.  So you're higher up than that guy was.

J: We can, yes.  The highest that we've flown actually out of Space Grant is about 114,000 feet.

H: And that's defined basically by the atmosphere.  Like, eventually, there's not enough atmosphere left for the balloon to be lighter than--

J: Yes.

H:--and the atmosphere becomes the same density as the balloon.

J: Yes.

H: So what's some of the research that's being done on your balloons right now?  You're working with students, are they proposing research ideas?

J: Yes, and it's all pretty eclipse-focused right now, so we have a number of--

H: Ohh, so that's why this is happening.

J: We have both systems--yes.  We have both--

H: I can't see anything.

J: You can't.  You have to stare at the Sun with those.  Right, yeah.

H: Right, there's--pretty much the only thing you can see through these is the Sun.

J: Yes.  

H: Or something that's reflecting the Sun.

J: Yes.

H: 'Cause I did take them out in the parking lot and I was like, whoa, I can see that car.

J: That indicates maybe don't stare at that spot on the car.  

H: Yeah, I think that my--my brain also told me not to do that.  I put these on and went and looked at the Sun and I felt a number of emotions I didn't expect.  I felt like there is a giant ball of plasma in the middle of our solar system and it is shining death upon us, and also life, but also like, it's tiny.  Like, the Sun sort of takes up a big piece of my mind sky, because like, I don't look at it and it's obviously the most important thing in the sky, and I don't know, I guess mostly when I look at the Sun, it's like setting and so it looks bigger because it's sort of on the horizon, but I look up and it's this little perfect, perfectly round little thing and you don't really ever see the Sun as being perfectly round either, because it's fuzzy on the edges and the atmosphere's doing stuff, but the part that you can see with this is just this perfect little circle.  

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J: It's very far away, is the one thing I want to mention.

H: No, I'm aware.  

J: For that.

H: I'm aware the Sun is actually big.  

J: (?~4:29) makes it seem a little small.  

H: Yeah, yeah, 93 million miles is a while.

J: But I think that's a great point, actually, because we are so focused, for a couple years now, on the development of what we're gonna measure and how we're gonna do it--

H: During this eclipse?

J: --and live video.  Yes.

H: So you've been thinking about this eclipse for years.

J: We have.  I was thinking, oh yeah, I haven't really looked at the Sun recently, 'cause I've been looking down at the computer with all the data and--or at the balloon.  It's nice to remind yourself that basic natural--

H: Reality.

J: --reality is happening, yeah, all the time.

H: Sometimes I feel that way when it's nighttime and I'm looking up at the sky, but for some reason, the Sun does not generally have that same effect on me, 'cause it's just a normal everyday part of life.

J: Well, I kinda wonder, is it because we don't look at it?

H: And also you can't look at it!  You really, like, you really can't unless it's like, sunset time.  

J: True.

H: Like it's not, don't do that, it's dangerous, it's like, you look at it and your brain--your mind is like, stop.  That hurts.  Like, you are damaging yourself.  

J: So can you imagine when it gets covered?

H: So these are good.  

J: I haven't seen a total solar eclipse.

H: I don't think I have either.

J: I've heard just that it's the most amazing experience to have.

H: Well, the path of totality's pretty thin, right?  

J: It's about 100 km wide.  We can get into it.  It's just South of us.

H: Yeah, yeah, no, a person can--how far South is it of us?  How far would I have to drive?

J: The closest extent--there's a very tiny piece that goes through the most Southwest-ish corner, the lowest part of Montana.

H: Of Montana?  Okay.  

J: So Idaho's probably the closest part from here, and then we're--our--we've got a team that's going to be in Wyoming doing atmospheric studies.

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