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Notes from the Field

Nothing but Blue Skies Are All That I See

August 16th, 2019 by Andy Hynous, NASA Balloon Program Office


Well, now it’s next time. As the Balloon Program continues to gear up for its first launch of the Ft. Sumner Campaign, our science teams are diligently working towards getting their integrations completed so they can declare “Flight Ready.” What that really means is that they are working hard on making sure their payloads work! Once they’ve proven everything has been put together properly, we’ll attach them to the NASA equipment and then we’ll test everything again!

One of our upcoming science missions here is BITSE (that’s short for “Balloon-borne investigation of Temperature and Speed of Electrons in the corona”). In the words of one of the lead scientists, Dr. Jeff Newmark, “BITSE is a technology demonstration of a new chronograph—a new type of telescope to learn about the origin of solar winds.” That’s pretty impressive. 

Above you can see a picture of BITSE taking advantage of the clear New Mexican skies and tracking the Sun. BITSE uses a special device to make its own personal eclipse so it can take very high resolution pictures of the Sun’s corona. Now, even though the team’s test worked, they’re still looking through all the air from here on the ground, which causes a degree of interference. Once they’ve launched, there will only be a trace amount of air at the experiment’s float altitude of 120,000 feet, so BITSE should get a very clear picture.

Once BITSE has flown on a balloon, the science team will take everything they learned to help us understand how the Sun makes solar winds, which also helps us understand how the Sun works. We’re really excited to support the team and their experiment. Keep checking back for more updates from the field here at Ft. Sumner. Thanks!

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