NASA Research Balloon Seen Over Iceland

nasa air balloon east iceland

The NASA research balloon SUNRISE-III recently passed over Iceland. Launched in Kiruna, Sweden, on July 10, the balloon is en route to Canada.

Solar observatory

The balloon is part of the 2024 Sweden Long-Duration Scientific Balloon Campaign. Four large scientific balloons will be launched from Esrange Space Center in Sweden, north of the Arctic Circle. On July 10, 2024, the SUNRISE-III mission successfully launched at 6:22 a.m. CEST from Esrange. The balloon is now floating at nearly 123,000 feet, heading towards Canada.

The balloon, named SUNRISE-III, is a solar observatory that takes high-resolution imaging and spectro-polarimetry of layers of the Sun called the solar photosphere and chromosphere, and active regions to measure magnetic field, temperature, and velocities.

Seen over Iceland

The balloon could be seen over parts of Iceland last night. At the time of writing, the balloon is headed out to sea, south of the Westfjords. You can track its progress here.

Iceland to be “Sold Out” for 2026 Eclipse

Sævar Helgi Bragason stargazing.

Popular Icelandic astronomer Sævar Helgi Bragason (often known as “Star-Sævar”) warned in a recent interview with RÚV that many accommodations may already be booked for the 2026 total solar eclipse.

Best visible from Látrabjarg

The path of totality for the 2026 eclipse will run from Iceland’s Westfjords to the Reykjanes peninsula. It will be visible from the capital area, but astronomers say it will be best viewed from the popular cliffs of Látrabjarg. “It will last longest at Látrabjarg, and if the weather is good, a large number of tourists can be expected to go there,” Sævar recently stated in an interview with RÚV. He also stated that travellers can expect much of Iceland to be sold out for the eclipse.

“The difference between a partial eclipse and a total eclipse is like comparing apples and oranges,” Sævar stated. Though a partial eclipse will be visible in parts of Europe and North America, Iceland will be one of the best places in the world to view the total eclipse.

Sævar stated that travellers have already begun booking accommodations and that many of the best viewing sites are already making plans to accommodate the large number of eclipse chasers.

Authorities at Látrabjarg, a sea cliff and popular bird-watching area, have already begun making plans to accommodate the greater-than-average number of travellers.

Sævar continued: “Several hotels are fully booked, both within and outside the path of totality. Major travel companies are organizing trips here, and they are struggling to secure hotel rooms. And I can confidently say that Iceland will be sold out on that specific day.”

The 2026 eclipse

The total eclipse will be visible on August 12, 2026. It will pass over the Arctic, Greenland, Iceland, and Spain, with partial visibility in North America, Scandinavia, Europe, and West Africa.

In Iceland, the path of totality begins at Straumnes Lighthouse in the Westfjords, lasting 1 minute and 57 seconds, extending to 2 minutes and 13 seconds at Látrabjarg. The eclipse will move swiftly at 3400 km/h (2110 mph) and leave Iceland at Reykjanestá Lighthouse around 5:51 pm.

Afterwards, it travels across the Atlantic, reaching Spain approximately 35 minutes later. In total, the eclipse (including the partial eclipse) will be viewable for about two hours in Iceland, though the total duration of totality will be significantly shorter, around 18 minutes.

Amateur astronomers and eclipse chasers can find further information about the 2026 total eclipse in Iceland here.

Read our interview with Icelandic astronomer Sævar Helgi Bragason here.

Moon and Venus Meet in Iceland’s Morning Sky

The moon and Venus seen from Iceland, November 9, 2023

This morning, November 9, locals and travellers looking up from Iceland saw an unusually beautiful sight: Venus and the Moon, the two brightest objects in the night sky, side by side. The phenomenon was visible to the naked eye while the sun was rising between 9:00 and 10:00 AM this morning. The Moon then passed “in front” of Venus, which appeared once more from behind it just before 10:00 AM.

The Moon and Venus meet in this way once a month, according to astronomer Sævar Helgi Bragason, who runs a popular Icelandic astronomy website, Stjörnufræðivefurinn. The phenomenon will occur next on the morning of December 9, but the two celestial bodies will be much further from each other than they were this morning. By early January, Venus will have dropped so low in the sky that its meeting with the Moon will no longer be visible from Iceland.

The Moon is not meeting Venus exclusively these days, however. On the morning of November 20, it will appear near Saturn, and on the morning of November 25, it will be seen close to Jupiter. It remains to be seen whether the sky above Iceland will be clear enough to view these celestial trysts.

Partial Solar Eclipse Visible from Iceland on Tuesday Morning

A partial solar eclipse will be visible from Iceland on Tuesday morning, RÚV reports. If the weather is good, the eclipse will be visible everywhere in the country. The public is reminded to use protective gear to view the celestial spectacle, although it will need to be homemade, as there are no more solar eclipse glasses available in the country.

A bite out of the sun

Solar eclipses occur when the moon passes between the sun and the earth and casts its shadow on the planet. “If people look at the sky this Tuesday, it’ll look like there’s a little bite missing,” says scientist and public educator Sævar Helgi Bragason (better known in Iceland as Stjörnu-Sævar, or ‘Star Sævar’ because of his particular enthusiasm for all things astronomy-related). “It’ll look a bit like the Apple logo.”

From Reykjavík, about 20% of the sun will be eclipsed, whereas it will be as much as 25% from the Northeastern and Eastern parts of the country. “It’s always something of a spectacle,” says Sævar, “but the only way to see it is to use appropriate protective equipment, such as eclipse glasses or solar filters.”

Make sure you have a good line of sight, DIY protective gear

The eclipse won’t last long in Iceland. It will begin just before 9:00 AM GMT (8:58 AM on the dot, according to phys.org), reach its peak at 10:00 AM, and then end shortly after that. When planning where best to watch the eclipse in Iceland, Sævar says it’s important to remember that the sun will be rising at the same time that the eclipse is occurring, so it will be low in the sky.

“So if, for example, you’re in a deep fjord or have tall buildings around you, those could block the sun. So you need to be in a place where you have a clear view,” he says. “With the appropriate protective gear, of course.”

Partial lunar eclipse to follow in November

Unfortunately, there aren’t any more solar eclipse glasses in Iceland. (They sold out in Iceland in 2015, too—so maybe a good idea to start planing ahead for 2026’s total eclipse if you’re an ethusiast.) But never fear if you don’t have eclipse glasses on hand—it isn’t hard to make your own. Sævar says you can use something as simple as transparent plastic lids or plastic bowls, and notes that clouds can also act as a natural filter. The most important thing, he says, is to look through something that reduces the intensity of the sunlight. Newsweek also has a variety of options for homemade viewers here.

Tuesday’s partial solar eclipse will also be live-streamed by the Royal Observatory Greenwich if you are located somewhere the eclipse will not be visible or are otherwise unable to watch it yourself:

If Tuesday’s solar event whets your appetite for astronomical wonders, you’re in luck: there will be a partial lunar eclipse during the full moon, right before sunrise on Tuesday, November 8.

Star Stuff

Sævar Helgi Bragason stargazing.

“The more you know about the nature that surrounds you, the more precious it becomes and the more important it becomes to protect it.” That’s the simple reasoning behind Sævar Helgi Bragason’s mission to educate the Icelandic public about astronomy, climate change, and science in general. During a working day that stretches from seven in […]

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Solar Eclipse Visible from Iceland on Saturday

A partial solar eclipse will be visible from Iceland on August 11.

A partial solar eclipse will be visible from Iceland this Saturday, August 11, RÚV reports. The eclipse should be visible from all parts on the country if weather allows.

Astronomy website Stjórnufræðivefurinn provides more details of the eclipse, which will be visible between 8.10-9.26am, with slight variations around the country. Depending on the viewer’s location, the moon will block from just under 9% (Westman Islands) to as much as 14% (Ísafjörður) of the sun’s visible surface.

Saturday’s eclipse will be most visible from just north and south of the arctic circle, or from Northeast Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Northern Europe and Northern Asia.

The last solar eclipse visible from Iceland occurred on August 21, 2017. The next will take place three years from now on June 10, 2021.

Observers are reminded that protective eyewear or a telescope with a solar filter are needed to observe the partial eclipse. Regular sunglasses do not suffice.