Thursday, 17 February 2011

Students record video of the Earth from edge of space

Posted by Andy

A little break from the normal but I thought I'd post this brilliant video made by two enterprising students from The University of Sheffield.
Alex Baker and Chris Rose, both PhD students from the University´s Department of Mechanical Engineering, sent a helium-filled balloon with two video cameras and a tracking device up into the atmosphere, filming video and taking pictures as it went.

The balloon was launched from Ashborne, Derbyshire on 17 December 2010, and was in flight for approximately two hours and 50 minutes, before landing in a field in Strethall, Cambridgeshire, a journey of over 100 miles. The location, which is Chris´ home town, was chosen specifically, as it was predicted that launching there would result in the device landing in a rural area.

The video footage, which lasts for two hours, shows the balloon being launched at sunrise and rapidly climbing above the clouds, filming the ground below and eventually showing the curvature of the Earth´s atmosphere. The balloon, after swelling to many times its original size, eventually burst, allowing the parachute to open and the box to descend back to Earth. It is thought that at its maximum height, the balloon reached an altitude of 37km.

The device, which was built by Alex and Chris in their spare time, consisted of a foam box, a parachute for the descent and the balloon. The electronic equipment had to be well insulated due to the extremely cold temperatures at such high altitudes, with duct tape and a small heat pad used to keep the cameras warm. A GPS tracking system, CATtrack, sent a text displaying its location when rung, allowing it to be collected. However, the whole device cost only £350 to build.

The video also shows the box being built from scratch, and the journey to collect the device from a snowy field in Cambridgeshire. 

Flight time: 2 hours, fifty minutes
Estimated maximum altitude: 37km
Distance travelled: 168km (104 miles)
Cost: £350
Estimated lowest temperature experienced: - 50 C

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