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OK, so they didn’t catch a comet, but …

space image 2014 - webThis still image from an on-board video camera shows the latest UIndy science balloon at the peak of its flight, nearly 18 miles above Earth’s surface.

Watch flight video

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.

balloon flight pathThis map shows the ground path of the latest UIndy balloon flight, which began on campus and ended two hours later in Kentucky’s Big Bone Lick State Park.