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Space Science

BLAST Telescope About To Launch From Antarctica 51

mtruch writes "BLAST, the Balloon-borne Large Aperture Sub-millimeter Telescope, is about to be launched from McMurdo Station, Antarctica. BLAST is a 2700 kg telescope with a 2 meter primary mirror that hangs from a 1.1 million cubic meter balloon floating at an altitude of 38 km that will study the star formation history of the universe. It will float west at nearly constant latitude for about 14 days until it is (hopefully) located over McMurdo again and will be terminated and recovered. Real time position and flight track is available from the CSBF. Watch the launch live via a crappy webcam link. Three of the graduate students working on the project have photo blogs of much of the prep period, and specifically Don's blog should have launch photos soon (bandwidth to/from McMurdo is at a premium). BLAST made it on Slashdot in the past, when it launched from Sweden in June 2005, and indirectly with an interview with Prof. Barth Netterfield and George Staikos. Yes, the flight computers still run Slack, and yes, we still use kst for data viewing and analysis. There is a Discovery Science show about BLAST and high-altitude balloons, and a future documentary film being made as well."
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BLAST Telescope About To Launch From Antarctica

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  • I met this guy. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kjones692 ( 805101 ) <> on Thursday December 21, 2006 @10:14AM (#17324360)
    He gave a lecture at a summer physics program I attended. Really interesting guy, fascinating stuff, but... whatever you do, don't talk to him about the previous BLAST telescope. It also had a two-meter mirror, but this one was made out of glass, (instead of aluminum) cost a million dollars, and shattered on takeoff. He is extremely bitter about this.

    Anyways, best of luck to 'em!
  • Re:Eskimo UFO (Score:4, Interesting)

    by twiddlingbits ( 707452 ) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @10:14AM (#17324370)
    Based on what I have seen (on TV) about the ballon missions from the Antartic float in a circle of 3-400 miles circumfrence about the South Pole. Unless penguins have cell phones and have learned to use them I doubt you'll get UFO reports. Even at 38km high (125000 ft) you wouldn't see it from populated areas (New Zealand being the nearest population center) I'm sure there is a formula for how far away you can see something at 125K feet but I don't feel like googling it today.
  • Re:Better link. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Rorschach1 ( 174480 ) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @01:18PM (#17326370) Homepage

    Anyone interested in this sort of thing should also check out sites like ARHAB [] and EOSS []. High-altitude ballooning has gained a lot of popularity in recent years, especially among ham radio hobbyists. It's relatively easy to build a payload that can reach an altitude of over 20 miles. I finally built one myself and launched it last month - it reached an altitude of over 106,000 feet and took over a thousand pictures between takeoff and landing. I posted a writeup [] on my website.

    Basic payloads like mine don't really contribute much scientific knowledge, but they're a lot of fun and it's a good way to get kids interested in science. It's the closest thing to launching a satellite you're likely to get on a shoestring budget. For the record, my launch probably cost around $400, and everything but the balloon ($65) and helium (about $40) was recovered in reusable condition. Though I'll probably shell out another $8 for a new payload housing - the last one hit a dry lake bed at around 20-30 mph when the 'chute got tangled.

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