Amazing Images of NASA Launching Balloons to Study Electron Rain

NASA/Dartmouth/Alexa Halford
NASA/Dartmouth/Alexa Halford / NASA/Dartmouth/Alexa Halford

Earlier this month, six giant balloons went soaring across the skies in Sweden as part of the Balloon Array for Radiation-belt Relativistic Electron Losses (or BARREL), a scientific endeavor to study electrons in the atmosphere near Earth’s poles. 

The NASA-funded project, led by investigators at Dartmouth University, launched six balloons from Kiruna, Sweden in mid-August, its third balloon launch since December 2012. Doughnut-shaped radiation belts around Earth called the Van Allen belts spit electrons into the atmosphere near the planet’s poles. BARREL, along with NASA’s twin Van Allen probes, is helping determine the extent of this rain of particles and how changes in precipitation in the atmosphere affect the radiation belt. This was the first balloon launch in the northern hemisphere, after two experiments in Antarctica. 

The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center posted some great photos of the balloon launch. And of course, even NASA can’t launch a balloon into the sky without getting it stuck in a tree at some point. (The team collected the balloon and its payload two days after its 16-hour flight ended about 35 miles away from the launch site.)

Image Credit: NASA/Dartmouth/Kathryn Waychoff

Image Credit:NASA/Dartmouth/Alexa Halford

Image Credit: NASA/University of Houston/Edgar Bering

Image Credit: NASA/Dartmouth/Alexa Halford

See the rest of the images on Flickr.