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Balloon Experiment To Study Gamma Rays

September 19, 2011 by  

DURHAM, N.H., Sept. 16 (UPI) — U.S. researchers say they’ll send a balloon up 130,000 feet to measure radiation from the remains of a supernova explosion 6,500 light years from Earth.

The first opportunity in a week-long launch window at NASA’s balloon facility in New Mexico will come Sunday, a University of New Hampshire release said Friday.

The balloon will carry a 1-ton instrument intended to gather gamma ray data on the supernova remnant known as the Crab Pulsar.

Astrophysicists say they hope the data will provide a better understanding of a phenomenon known as particle acceleration, a ubiquitous and important but poorly understood process that generates radiation and occurs throughout the universe, found in everything from Earth’s magnetic field to pulsars and black holes.

High-altitude balloons, with a volume of up to 30 million cubic feet of helium, have been used to carry NASA experiments to the edge of space for more than 50 years, the university said, and provide a vastly cheaper and less time-consuming approach than satellite-based missions.

“We should be doing some very useful science on the Crab Pulsar during this flight and we only need 24 hours to do that,” Mark McConnell, chairman of the UNH department of physics, said.

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