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TOPIC: Sunrise Solar Telescope


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RE: Sunrise Solar Telescope
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On 8 June, the solar observatory Sunrise was launched from the Esrange Space Centre in Kiruna, Sweden. A gigantic helium balloon, carrying approximately 1 million cubic metres of gas, is now carrying the largest solar telescope ever to lift off from the Earth's surface. The observatory will circle the North Pole, where the Sun never sets in summer. There, it is expected to gather highly accurate information about the magnetic fields of the Sun's atmosphere.
Over the next few days, the balloon will monitor the Sun non-stop as the polar winds carry it westwards over the northern Atlantic Ocean, Greenland and Canada at an altitude of 37km above sea level. One of the main advantages of the Sunrise observatory is that it will be able to function in the stratosphere (the layer of the atmosphere between 10km and 50km above the Earth's surface), beyond Earth's more turbulent lower atmosphere.

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At 08.05 (local time) this morning, the largest balloon born telescope ever took off from Swedish Space Corporations (SSC) launch facility at Esrange Space Centre in northern Sweden.

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At 08.27 (local time) this morning, the largest balloon born telescope ever took off from Swedish Space Corporations (SSC) launch facility at Esrange Space Centre in northern Sweden. The balloon, the technical equipment and the gondola weigh around 6 ton all together and this is by far the heaviest payload ever launched with a balloon from Esrange.

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Solar Telescope Reaches 120,000 Feet on Jumbo-Jet-Sized Balloon

In a landmark test flight, the National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and a team of research partners this month successfully launched a solar telescope to an altitude of 120,000 feet, borne by a balloon larger than a Boeing 747 jumbo jet. The test clears the way for long-duration polar balloon flights beginning in 2009 that will capture unprecedented details of the Sun's surface.

"This unique research project will enable us to view features of the Sun that we've never seen before. We hope to unlock important mysteries about the Sun's magnetic field structures, which at times can cause electromagnetic storms in our upper atmosphere and may have an impact on Earth's climate" - Michael Knölker, director of NCAR's High Altitude Observatory and a principal investigator on the project.

The project, known as Sunrise, is an international collaboration involving NCAR, NASA, Germany's Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research and Kiepenheuer Institute for Solar Physics, Spain's Astrophysics Institute of the Canary Islands, and the Swedish Space Corporation. Additional U.S. partners include the Lockheed Martin Corporation and the University of Chicago. Funding for NCAR's work on the project comes from NASA and from the National Science Foundation, which is NCAR's primary sponsor.
The project may usher in a new generation of balloon-borne scientific missions that cost less than sending instruments into space. Scientists also can test an instrument on a balloon before making a commitment to launch it on a rocket.

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