OK, so they didn’t catch a comet, but …
The world has been abuzz this week over the amazing images captured by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission, which traveled for 10 years through space and landed a probe on the bizarre, duck-shaped Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.
Less widely known, but still pretty cool, are the latest images captured by UIndy’s own space agency — the Department of Physics & Earth-Space Science — during its high-altitude balloon launch on Homecoming Day, Oct. 25.
This was the 13th such launch by the department, which has been sending up two or three balloons a year since 2009, department chair Steve Spicklemire says. The latest was for a course in astronomy and laboratory instrumentation, and it carried seven self-contained experiment pods prepared by students for the flight. According to an on-board GPS tracker, the payload reached a height of 93,360 feet — nearly 18 miles — before the balloon popped as planned and the assembly spiraled wildly back to earth, landing in a tree in Kentucky’s Big Bone Lick State Park.
You can follow the entire two-hour, 20-minute flight on this video, which shows the balloon lifting off from campus and rising to the very edge of space before beginning its descent. (CAUTION: The camera motion may cause discomfort in viewers prone to wooziness.)
The next UIndy balloon launch will be this spring, for a meteorology class.