Slender hoses, blown into arcs by the wind, partially fill the balloon with helium before launch. A large portion of the balloon is left unfilled so it can expand as it ascends into the stratosphere, where air pressure is considerably lower.
Click on image for full size
Photo by Carlye Calvin, ©UCAR.

Solar Telescope Reaches 120,000 Feet on Jumbo-Jet-Sized Balloon
News story originally written on October 24, 2007

The Sunrise project just had a successful first launch. This project is a huge balloon bigger then a 747 jumbo jet that carries science instruments very, very high in the Earth's atmosphere.

This first launch was made from New Mexico and stayed up for about 10 hours. The next flights will be made over the Arctic in the summer of 2009, launching from Sweden. Then the balloon will stay up for several days to as long as two weeks at a time.

The main aims of these launches are for the science instruments to take pictures of the Sun's surface and to look into the Sun's magnetic field. The magnetic field of the Sun is tied to solar activity which can cause storms that hit Earth.

The Sunrise project was a hard one to design and make. Engineers had to design a balloon that could carry 6,000 pounds of equipment. The equipment also had to be able to parachute back to Earth so scientists could pick it up and launch it on another balloon. The equipment had to handle big changes in temperature too. Working together, engineers and scientists tackled these problems and more! Would you like to be an engineer some day tackling problems like these?

The Sunrise project has many partners including the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and NASA.

Last modified March 10, 2008 by Jennifer Bergman.

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