This composite photo shows how it might look as the WB-57F research aircraft chase the Aug. 21 solar eclipse. (NASA/Faroe Islands/SwRI)
When a total solar eclipse shrouds parts of the United States in darkness on Aug. 21, NASA will get a longer look at it than most, thanks to a pair of WB-57F jet planes.
The retrofitted planes will carry telescopes that'll get the clearest view ever seen of the sun's outer atmosphere, known as the corona, according to a NASA release. Additionally, they'll be able to capture thermal images of Mercury for the first time to learn about varying temperatures on the planet's surface.