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Space Technology

The Big Bang By Balloon 23

StartsWithABang writes If you want to map the entire sky — whether you're looking in the visible, ultraviolet, infrared or microwave, your best bet is to go to space. Only high above the Earth's atmosphere can you map out the entire sky, with your vision unobscured by anything terrestrial. But that costs millions of dollars for the launch alone! What if you've got new technology you want to test? What if you still want to defeat most of the atmosphere? (Which you need to do, for most wavelengths of light.) And what if you want to make observations on large angular scales, something by-and-large impossible from the ground in microwave wavelengths? You launch a balloon! The Spider telescope has just completed its data-taking operations, and is poised to take the next step — beyond Planck and BICEP2 — in understanding the polarization of the cosmic microwave background.
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The Big Bang By Balloon

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  • They are launching it from Antarctica because the ozone hole has expanded so much, from certain angles in the right place the atmosphere lets all the radiation in, so they can get the best measurements.
    • Re:Ozone Hole (Score:4, Informative)

      by necro81 ( 917438 ) on Thursday January 29, 2015 @08:52AM (#48930763) Journal
      The ozone hole affects UV absorption. Spider operates in the microwave spectrum where ozone (or its absence) does not play a significant effect.

      Water vapor plays a much, much greater role in those wavelengths, and the Antarctic atmosphere is about as good at it gets in that regard.
      • Not that I know the particular microwave spectrum of ozone, but it does have a dipole moment, thus it should be susceptible to microwave radiation.
        • Re:Ozone Hole (Score:5, Informative)

          by geogob ( 569250 ) on Thursday January 29, 2015 @10:12AM (#48931081)

          That is correct. Ozone can (and is) measured in microwave spectral bands. For example, the Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) on the AURA satellite retrieves Ozone around 240 GHz. Actually, every Microwave sounder that I know of can measure Ozone, so I have no doubt that Ozone signatures in the upper atmosphere (just as from other trace gases) could affect microwave space observation.

          But it's not the main reason why they fly there I believe. If they want to do long duration flights, everywhere else, they will have to cross large water masses and cross various airspaces. I believe it would be difficult to do the same in the north hemisphere (crossing Russian airspace). Furthermore, in the polar summer, you do not need to worry about day-night cycles, which makes power supply system simpler. If they need sun for power (always the case I guess over a 48h float), a flight in the polar winter cannot work. The only alternative could be equatorial flight, but getting the overflight permits is complex and there are, to my knowledge, no active balloon bases in equatorial/tropical regions these days.

  • How can you make it? By asking rhetorical questions, and ending your sentence with bangs! What if your readers already heard of balloons to map the microwaves over a decade ago? Didn't a balloon go up in the skies? We got some partial results before the WMAP probe picture!, improved from the ealier coarse picture made thanks to the earlier space-based COBE! But hold your breath, we're gonna write new articles and they will end up on slashdot! Bang!

    • by wbr1 ( 2538558 )
      Slashdot. Quickly becoming the PopSci of the geek world. Soylent is often tastier.
      • Soylent is often tastier.

        I don't care how good it tastes. I'm not eating anything made of people!

  • If people do not like the show, just don't watch it. (What? If I read the what now? I read part of the subject, like everybody else.)

  • Am I only one that read the title as "Bit Bang by Balloon"?

    I had visions of sending serial data by balloon, I get here and it's an article about science... What a crock.

It's fabulous! We haven't seen anything like it in the last half an hour! -- Macy's