Leicester weather balloon records stunning heights

Students from Leicester University’s Astronomy and Rocketry society have launched a weather balloon to an altitude of 23.6km, capturing stunning images in the process.

(Credit: University of Leicester)
(Credit: University of Leicester)

The launch, which took place in December, is part of a wider project codenamed Aether. This initial endeavour saw the team release a balloon and sensor payload near Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire. As well as producing photographs and video, the flight tested electronic control systems for future planned flights that will monitor pollution, along with advanced navigational systems.

Having successfully captured images of the Earth’s curvature, the payload then descended at speeds up to 100mph before being recovered in Warwickshire. The students were able to track the balloon’s progress with the help of amateur radio enthusiasts, and the same techniques will be applied for future flights.

“We’ve proven the reliability of the payload electronics and tracking methods, the payload returned in perfect condition, that’s a lot to say for something that’s been to 23.6km and plunged back to earth at over 44.7m/s,” said Robert Peck, a student at Leicester’s Department of Physics and Astronomy.

“The tracking also worked perfectly, we are indebted to the amateur radio community for helping us to set up the tracking equipment.”

According to the team, future flights will test the full sensor array and advanced navigation systems, which time constraints prevented them from launching on this occasion.