Kids Capture Space Photos From Homemade Weather Balloon

Heather Archuletta's picture

Four students sent a weather balloon into Earth’s stratosphere, successfully taking atmospheric readings and amazing photographs from 20 miles up.

Gerard Paretas, Sergi Vila, Marta Morcillo and Jaume Casamort (all aged 18-19) make up the "Meteotek Team" of IES La Bisbal school in Catalonia, Spain.

With the help of their teacher, Jordi Oriol, the students constructed electronic sensor components, and attached them to a helium-filled latex balloon. Also onboard? A small Nikon camera to photograph the edge of space.

While the accepted definition of "space" is generally accepted as 50 miles up (about 264,000 feet -- or what is called "astronaut altitude"), achieving even a fraction of that can yield visuals of Earth curvature.

The students followed the progress of their balloon through Google Earth, accounting for scientific variables as they watched the small craft cruise to 30,000 feet – or the altitude of the standard commercial airplane. At about 100,000 feet, the balloon lost inflation and descended to the Earth.

After traveling about 6 miles to retrieve their camera and radio receiver, which was still emitting signals, they were able to inspect aerial images of the Earth, and the upper atmosphere, on their digital camera. Quite an astronomic achievement considering their quaint costs:

Camera = 60 Euro or $78 dollars
Latex Balloon = 46 Euro or $60 dollars

The Meteotek team kept a blog of their test trials and "edge of space" photography at http://teslabs.com/meteotek08/ and continue to keep interested parties updated with their Twitter feed.

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