In DepthAstrophysics

Titanic balloon sets record and tantalizes scientists

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Science  08 Jul 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6295, pp. 108-109
DOI: 10.1126/science.353.6295.108

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The largest pressurized balloon to be launched by NASA has set a record for endurance: the longest midlatitude flight by a large scientific balloon. For decades, conventional "zero-pressure" balloons have given researchers a high-altitude platform for studying atmospheric chemistry, the cosmic microwave background, and many other phenomena. But at temperate latitudes, the endurance of conventional balloons is limited. So-called superpressure balloons promise to bring that endurance to temperate latitudes, opening new phenomena to observation. Packing 532,000 cubic meters of helium and measuring 114 meters in diameter, NASA's latest superpressure balloon circled the Southern Hemisphere for 46 days, lofting a gamma ray telescope to the edges of space.