Cosmic Ray Hunting Balloon Sets Record for Longest Flight

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Cosmic Ray Hunting Balloon Sets Record for Longest Flight

A U.S. science balloon is launched from Antarctica in the course of the December 2012 season.

Credit score: NASA Wallops


It is robust to be a balloon over Antarctica. Most do not final quite a lot of weeks, however the Tremendous-TIGER cosmic ray detector has been floating over the South Pole for 46 days and counting.


The Tremendous-TIGER mission formally shattered the file for longest-running balloon-borne experiment in Antarctica on Saturday (Jan. 19), scientists stated. The undertaking launched from the southernmost continent’s Ross Ice Shelf on Dec. 9, and has already surpassed the earlier file of 42 days, set by one other cosmic ray detector, Cream I, which flew within the winter of 2004 to 2005.


“At 42 days of flight Tremendous-TIGER is now the longest scientific balloon mission! We have now over 50 million occasions!” mission scientists wrote on the undertaking’s Fb web page Jan. 19. “Information are made to be damaged!”


Earlier than Tremendous-TIGER’s launch, experiment principal investigator W. Robert Binns, a physicist at Washington College in St. Louis, stated “he can be deliriously blissful if the balloon carrying the cosmic ray detector stayed up 30 days,” in keeping with a Washington College assertion. [Extreme Living: Scientists at the End of the Earth]


Tremendous-TIGER has circled the South Pole two and a half instances, floating at a top of about 130,000 ft (40,000 meters), which is roughly three or 4 instances greater than passenger jets fly.


From its high-up perch, the balloon-borne instrument can catch cosmic rays (charged particles from deep area) that are usually blocked from reaching the bottom by Earth’s ambiance.


And lifting off from Antarctica is a boon, as a result of the wind over the South Pole, known as the polar vortex, tends to deliver balloons again round in a circle to the place they began, making them straightforward to retrieve after they’ve come again to the bottom. Moreover, the solar by no means units throughout Antarctic summer season, which helps balloons keep aloft.


“In case you fly from northern Canada as we used to do, the helium within the balloon cools at evening and the balloon begins to descend,” Binns stated in a press release. “The one approach you possibly can stick with it there’s by dropping about 100 kilos of ballast. So due to the day/evening cycle, flights are restricted to about 40 hours, or two days. In Antarctica you possibly can keep up for much longer since you don’t have that drawback.”


However whereas Antarctica is ideal for balloons, it is lower than superb for people. A day when the wind chill is above minus 75 levels Fahrenheit (minus 59 levels Celsius) is taken into account nice.


“Wednesday we had nice climate right here in McMurdo — nearly freezing,” crew member Ryan Murphy wrote right this moment (Jan. 23) on his weblog, Super-TIGER on the Ice.


Nevertheless, the close-knit group of scientists who stay at McMurdo Station, the house base for U.S. analysis in Antarctica, discover methods to amuse themselves. The scientists have common Wednesday evening soccer video games, Murphy wrote, and the Tremendous-TIGER crew even labored with researchers again at Washington College to photograph a “trophy” to commemorate their record-setting flight.


“By means of the Photoshop expertise of the crew again at Wash U, we now have an image of an superior real-looking trophy for the longest Antarctic balloon flight,” Murphy wrote of a bowling trophy made to appear to be an official NASA commemoration of Tremendous-TIGER’s achievement. “This trophy doesn’t exist. However I sort of want it did.”


Tremendous-TIGER is not the one balloon-borne experiment launched this season from the South Pole. The Balloon-borne Massive-Aperture Submillimeter Telescope (BLAST) experiment launched Dec. 25 to review star formation within the Milky Means, whereas the EBEX telescope took flight on Dec. 19 to survey the cosmic microwave background radiation left over from the Massive Bang.


Observe Clara Moskowitz on Twitter @ClaraMoskowitz or SPACE.com @Spacedotcom. We’re additionally on Facebook & Google+.





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