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BARREL is conducting test flights in Antarctica!

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Research

We conduct scientific balloon experiments to study the Earth's radiation belts. Specifically, we are studying the loss of relativistic electrons from the outer radiation belts. Understanding and quantifying electron losses is a vital component of understanding radiation belt dynamics. Recent results, including those from the 2000 MAXIS balloon campaign, have shown that losses could empty the radiation belts of relativistic electrons in days if no acceleration was taking place! Thus, losses must be included in any successful physics-based models of the radiation belts. (Right: Launch of MAXIS 2000 balloon at McMurdo Station, Antarctica)

The main way for radiation belt electrons to be lost inside geosynchronous orbit is to the Earth's atmosphere. This is called relativistic electron precipitation or REP for short. We observe the bremsstrahlung X-rays produced as the electrons are scattered into the atmosphere. Since the X-rays don't penetrate to the ground, we use high altitude balloons to carry our X-ray detectors to an altitude of more than 120,000 feet (~35km). Unlike spacecraft which move quickly through a precipitation region, balloons offer a nearly-stationary platform from which the temporal and spatial structure of the precipitation can be studied.


2005-2006 Balloon Campaigns

In January 2005, we launched two small balloon payloads from Ft. Churchill, Manitoba. Four similar payloads were simultaneously launched by our collaborators at U. C. Berkeley from the South African Antarctic Station (SANAE). These flights have provided us with the first multi-point measurements of REP from a balloon. Go to Balloon Campaigns for more information.

In summer 2006, we will fly some of our instruments on the Bartol Research Institute's AESOP payload from Kiruna, Sweden. The Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility will launch the balloon as part of their Sweden Operations.

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