Late Friday, Feb. 2, an overcast day in St. Louis, the twitter feed for the Super-TIGER cosmic ray experiment burst into life, as the Super-TIGER team received word that NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility, which provides operations support for scientific ballooning in Antarctica, had decided to terminate the flight of the balloon carrying their detector aloft in the polar vortex.
Over the holiday weekend, the WUSTL-led cosmic ray experiment Super-TIGER set a record for the longest flight ever made by a heavy-liftscientific balloon. Now aloft for 45 days, shattering the previous record of 42 days, it has recorded more than 50 million “events,” or hits by cosmic rays arriving from space. The scientists are ecstatic to have such a great balloon because the longer the it stays up, the more data they will collect and the more they will learn about the mysterious mechanism that accelerates these particles and sends them streaming across space.
Super-TIGER the WUSTL-led cosmic ray experiment, has just been given the green light for a third circuit around Antarctica. If the balloon stays up for a complete circuit it will probably break the heavy-lift scientific ballooning record of 42 days — and bring in a rich haul of data about cosmic rays, charged particles that continually bombard the Earth from space. The team has gone positively piratical over the prospect of more booty.
Invisible high-velocity particles rain down on Earth day in and day out, but it has taken 100 years and clever deduction for physicists to figure out what they’re made of and where they come from. Although some details are still unclear, physicists have built a case that the cosmic rays are born in volleys of supernova explosions in OB associations, loose associations of hot, massive stars sprinkled throughout our galaxy.
The Super-TIGER comic-ray experiment had a perfect launch Sunday 9:45 am New Zealand Daylight Time. The enormous balloon that will carry it to the limits of Earth’s atmosphere was stretched out on the ice and then partially filled. As it came up off the ice, the balloon rose over the downstream instrument. When it was directly overhead the Boss released the two-ton cosmic-ray instrument and it was lofted effortlessly into the skies over Antarctica.
The word from Antarctica is that the polar vortex is setting up early this year and the balloon-borne Super-TIGER cosmic-ray experiment may be launched into the vortex any day now. Once the launch starts, web cams and a tracking map will go live at NASA’a Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility site Blogs and Twitter feeds are already providing a lively running commentary on the buildup to launch.
WUSTL astrophysicists have received a five-year, $3,225,740 grant from NASA to design and build Super-TIGER — a Trans-Iron Galactic Element Recorder — to collect rare atomic particles called galactic cosmic rays. Super-TIGER’s first flight is planned for December 2012.
Courtesy photoW. Robert Binns and TIGER prelaunch in AntarcticaAstrophysicists at Washington University in St. Louis have received a five-year, $3,225,740 grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to design and build Super-TIGER — a Trans-Iron Galactic Element Recorder — and then fly it aboard a high-altitude balloon over Antarctica to collect rare atomic particles called galactic cosmic rays. Super-TIGER’s first flight in search of the origin of cosmic rays is planned for December 2012.