High-altitude research jets
By carefully timing their flights, the two jets will combine to use their stabilized onboard camera equipment to observe the totality of the eclipse for 7 minutes, around three times longer than the two-and-a-half minutes experienced by eclipse observers on the ground. [Read more about the eclipse-chasing jets]
The corona is the hot outermost layer of the sun's atmosphere, which only becomes visible during a solar eclipse when the disk of the moon blocks out the disk of the sun.
How they work
The planes have been extensively retrofitted with atmospheric sensors and instruments to fly a variety of high-altitude research missions. The stabilized camera platform that will be used by the jets during the eclipse was developed to track NASA's space shuttles during re-entry to the atmosphere.
Teamwork at its best
The moon's shadow travels even faster than the jets can fly, so the pilots will need to fly in formation, about 62 miles (100 km) apart, so that the second aircraft can start its observations of the totality a few seconds before the totality ends for the first aircraft.
Understanding our star
The magnetic field lines are rooted in the chaotic surface of the sun itself, and computer models suggest they should become a "tangled mat" of magnetic field lines, instead of the smooth structures that are seen, Caspi said.
A clear view
The high-altitude cameras will also be above around 90 percent of the Earth's atmosphere and 99 percent of its water vapor, which will reduce distortion to a minimum and allow the cameras to detect very fine dynamic changes in the corona.
Seeing the unseen
They hope the infrared images will reveal the temperatures of Mercury's surface near the planet's dawn terminator, where it moves from freezing night to scorching-hot day.
Searching for theories
Data from the observations gathered by the researchers will be shared with teams of scientists around the world, and a live video feed from the jets' cameras, transmitted by a Viacom satellite, will be available to the public during the eclipse itself.