Teens Capture Images of Space with $78 Camera and Balloon

Daily News Article   —   Posted on March 17, 2009

Note:  This article is from the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph. Notice the use of the metric system when relating weights and measurements: 

(from Telegraph.co.uk) – Teenagers armed with only a £56 [$78] camera and latex balloon have managed to take stunning pictures of space from 20-miles above Earth.

Proving that you don’t need Google’s billions or the BBC weather centre’s resources, the four Spanish students managed to send a camera-operated weather balloon into the stratosphere.

Taking atmospheric readings and photographs 20 miles above the ground, the Meteotek team of IES La Bisbal school in Catalonia completed their incredible experiment at the end of February this year.

Building the electronic sensor components from scratch, Gerard Marull Paretas, Sergi Saballs Vila, Marta­ Gasull Morcillo and Jaume Puigmiquel Casamort managed to send their heavy duty £43 latex balloon to the edge of space and take readings of its ascent.

Created by the four students under the guidance of teacher Jordi Fanals Oriol, the budding scientists, all aged 18-19, followed the progress of their balloon using high tech sensors communicating with Google Earth.

Team leader Gerard Marull, 18, said: “We were overwhelmed at our results, especially the photographs, to send our handmade craft to the edge of space is incredible.”

Completing their landmark experiment on February, the Meteotek team had to account for a wide variety of variables and rely on a lot of luck.

“The balloon we chose was inflated with helium to just over two metres and weighed just 1500 grams,” said Gerard. “It was able to carry the sensor equipment and digital Nikon camera which weighed 1.5kg.

“However, when we launched at 9.10am on that morning the critical point for the experiment was to see if the balloon would make it past 10,000m, or 30,000ft, which is the altitude that commercial airliners fly at.”

Due to the changing atmospheric pressures, the helium weather balloon carrying the meteorological equipment was expected to inflate to a maximum of nine and a half metres as it travelled upwards at 270 metres-per-minute.

“We took readings as the balloon rose and mapped its progress using Google Earth and the onboard radio receiver,” said Gerard.

“At over 100,000ft the balloon lost its inflation and the equipment was returned to the earth.

“We travelled 10km to find the sensors and photographic card, which was still emitting its signal, even though it had been exposed to the most extreme conditions.”

The pupils’ incredible school science project has already caught the attention of the University of Wyoming in the US, and the Meteotek team keep those interested updated with regular blogs and updates to their Twitter feed.

Information appearing on telegraph.co.uk is the copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited and must not be reproduced in any medium without licence. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from the Telegraph. Visit the website at telegraph.co.uk.  

Questions

1. Define stratosphere and ascent as used in the article.

2. What did four students from the Meteotek school in Spain accomplish recently?

3. How were the students able to follow the progress of their balloon?

4. Why was the helium weather balloon that carried the equipment expected to expand significantly?

5. At what altitude did the balloon lose its inflation?

OPTIONAL:  Email your reaction to the students’ experiment to team leader Gerard Marull Paretas at gerardmarull@gmail.com.
Remember to identify yourself (name, school, state, country), name the article you are commenting on, and that you read it at StudentNewsDaily.com. Be clear, concise and polite.


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Resources

Visit the group’s webpage at their school Meteotek at teslabs.com/meteotek08/membres.

(click here for the English version – or go to translate.google.com to translate a page into English)

View photos and videos from the students’ flickr page at flickr.com/photos/meteotek08.