Thursday, December 06, 2007

Nasa to use balloon to study atmosphere

Will be very interesting to see if they get the planned ring around the pole to work...

Balloons help study radiation
Thursday, 06 Dec 2007 12:34

The Van Allen Belts encircle Earth containing high-energy electrons and ions

A flotilla of 40 balloons flying at high altitude is to become Nasa's answer to studying the hazardous radiation trapped by the Earth's magnetic field.The type of radiation in the Van Allen
Belts can be harmful to astronauts, orbiting satellites and aircraft flying in high altitude polar routes.

These belts are doughnut-shaped regions encircling Earth that contain high-energy electrons and ions.The new $10 million (£4.95 million) mission, named the Balloon Array for Radiation-belt Relativistic Electron Losses (Barrel), will provide scientific insights into how and where the Van Allen Belts periodically drain into Earth's upper atmosphere.

The balloons are set to launch in conjunction with Nasa's radiation belt storm probes satellites in 2011."The study of near-Earth radiation is very important," said John Mather, Nobel Prize recipient and chief scientist of Nasa's science mission directorate."This research will provide information to mitigate problems here on our planet as well as permit better design and operations of new technology in space and safer passage for space explorers."The balloons will be launched from Antarctica and will expand to roughly the size of a large blimp when they reach the near-space research altitude.

By releasing a balloon per day the research team aim to form a ring of balloons encircling the South Pole.

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