Having traveled 80,000 feet into the stratosphere and 345 miles across three states, the Hamilton weather balloon finally came to rest in a tree on the edge of the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire but not before capturing spectacular video footage. Members of the Society of Physics for Students responsible for the project were able to retrieve the balloon remnants and equipment two weeks later. This was an impressive feat considering that less than 20 percent of the approximately 70,000 equipment-equipped weather balloons released by the National Weather Service each year are found and returned.
The students had originally projected that the balloon would rise to a height of at least 60,000 feet and land in the Lake George area. “The flight path did directly pass over the location we had predicted for landing meaning our directional predictions were spot on, just not our distance predictions. We are currently exploring what may have caused the distance to be different than expected,” said Bryan Edwards ’19, co-director of this project with R.J. Taylor ’19.
Equipped with a GPS device, the students were able to locate the remnants of the balloon, the GPS device, and, most importantly, the video camera that filmed the take-off and rise into the stratosphere. A team of students set out the weekend following the Nov. 10 launch to retrieve their equipment, unaware that it was stuck in a tree approximately 35 feet in the air.
The following weekend, a smaller team, alumnus Alex Dennis ’18 and Taylor, returned to the site 150 feet from a trail with a grappling hook and rope and successfully pulled the package down.
The video from the balloon launch offers unique views of the campus and surrounding areas in Upstate New York and beyond. The students hope to launch at least one more balloon before the end of the academic year.