January 2005, we are launching two balloon payloads from Churchill, Manitoba. Each 60 lb
payload will be carried to an altitude of 120,000 feet on a 300,000 cubic foot balloon.
Four similar payloads will be simultaneously launched by our collaborators at U. C.
Berkeley from the South African Antarctic Station (SANAE). These flights will provide us
with the first conjugate measurements of relativistic electron precipitation from a
balloon. Stay tuned for progress on the campaign! (Right: Launch
of MINIS test balloon at McMurdo Station, Antarctica)
The MINIS project is an effort to understand the size, frequency and mechanisms of
relativistic electron precipitation from the magnetosphere into the ionosphere. It is
the next step in an ongoing effort. The MINIS approach differs in emphasis and method
from its predecessor experiment (MAXIS). A different instrument package, which includes
electric and magnetic field sensors, will look for electromagnetic indications of
magnetospheric waves which might be responsible for scattering relativistic electron out
of their repetitive motions in the magnetosphere and down into Earth's atmosphere. The
MINIS campaign will employ 4 balloons with staggered launches in order to extend the
longitudinal range over which relativistic electron precipitation is observed. These
balloons will be hand-launched by graduate students from the South African Antarctic
station, SANAE, in January 2005. University of Washington is contributing electric field
instrument components (Bob Holzworth and Michael Kokorowski) and x-ray spectrometers
(Michael McCarthy and Erin Lay) to the balloon payloads. Michael Kokorowski will also
travel to SANAE to launch the balloons.
See balloon trajectory maps and data here.
Churchill's final balloon was released at approximately 01:40 UTC. The balloon reached
float as predicted in two hours, and moved a little slower than the first balloon. The
balloon continued easterly until we terminated the flight off the eastern coast of
Iceland. The balloon transmitted data until landing in the ocean.
SANAE launched their third and fourth balloons this week.
Congratulations to both SANAE and the Churchill team for the successful launch of SIX balloons in two weeks!
At approximately 08:54 UTC, our first Churchill balloon was released. The payload
reached float in a little over two hours after launch, and ended up floating over
Greenland when we cut it down. It continued to send us data from atop the Greenland Ice
Cap until the batteries died.
At approximately 13:00 UTC the second SANAE balloon was launched. The payload reached
float in just over two hours. Great data is beginning to come in. Congratulations to
the hard working people down in Antarctica for a successful launch.
The SANAE balloon launched at approximately 14:00 UTC. The payload reached altitude in
just over one hour. After that, the balloon proceeded to come back down over the course
of several hours. The mechanism that brought the balloon down is still unknown.
Our first flight, which was set to occur on January 8th has been delayed due to poor
weather in both Antarctica and here in Churchill. We are anticipating a launch on
January 17th, provided the weather in both poles is flight worthy. We have completed one
payload, and are busy finishing our second payload while we wait out the blizzard that
has moved in at both Churchill and SANAE.
Members from our team are just arriving at the Churchill
Northern Studies Center. Our southern hemisphere collaborators arrived at SANAE last
week and are busily preparing for a January 8th launch.