After a successful weather balloon launch and retrieval in December, the Hamilton Society of Physics Students (SPS) gave it another try on Friday, Sept. 20.
Leenie Wilcox '21, SPS director of projects, said Friday's launch went smoothly and the students were pleased with how far the balloon traveled.
"It was expected to go somewhere around an hour south of Albany according to our weather simulations, so I suppose that by filling the balloon up to the brim we decreased our total flight time, thereby decreasing our flight distance," said Wilcox. "The first launch was a 'can we do it?' launch, and each following one is more of a 'can we do it better?' As we get better and better at the whole process, more data collecting and science works its way into the system."
The balloon landed on Sunday, Sept. 22, in Grand Gorge, a hamlet in the town of Roxbury, Delaware County, N.Y., near the Big Indian Wilderness Area in the Catskill Forest Preserve, roughly 87 miles south.
Inside the payload were two Go-Pro cameras to collect footage, a GPS tracker so students could see the height and location of the balloon every 10 minutes, a battery reserve, hand warmers (to increase battery life), and a ball of aluminum foil (so planes can pick up the balloon on their radars).
Wilcox said the first launch had one Go-Pro wedged into the bottom of the box facing down, "and we realized that we didn't have a chance of recording any curvature of the Earth. This time we put two Go-Pros in, one at an angle and one facing down, and we got a bigger balloon, so with the added angles and the greater altitude, we hopefully can get some footage," she said. "Our next launch we hope to bring on board some data-taking equipment to measure the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and possibly temperature at various altitudes."
The students expected the balloon to reach about 70,000 ft., but it ended up reaching somewhere around 85-90,000 ft.
SPS members will retrieve the balloon, but will need permission to go on the property, so it will be tracekd down in about a week.
Last year’s balloon traveled 80,000 feet into the stratosphere and 345 miles across three states before finally coming to rest in a tree on the edge of the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire.