Abstract

The North Dakota Atmospheric Education Student Initiated Research (ND-AESIR) team launched a balloon during the total solar eclipse in Rexburg, Idaho. After the umbra’s passage, the balloon experienced unexpectedly high levels of atmospheric turbulence. Video footage taken from the payload displays the conditions, and analysis of flight path data models created from the iridium GPS confirm that unusually violent turbulence occurred. These forces caused the key rings holding the bottom of the parachute to the payload train to rip open; the balloon and parachute flew away and the payloads free fell to the surface from an altitude of 68,301 feet. We hypothesize that the umbra’s passage caused a temperature dip sharp enough to cause a significant pressure differential, creating the ensuing turbulence. Radiosonde data from Montana Space Grant Consortium eclipse balloons and mechanical engineering properties of the key rings will be analyzed. These findings are expected to support our hypothesis and give a better understanding of the specific atmospheric conditions. Future research recommendations include a payload package design to be flown during the next eclipse that includes a suite of instruments to better study the forces behind eclipse induced atmospheric turbulence, in addition to payload connections that can withstand the higher forces experienced in these conditions.

Previous Versions

Oct 26 2017

 

Solar Eclipse Induced Atmospheric Turbulence Effects on High Altitude Balloons

The North Dakota Atmospheric Education Student Initiated Research (ND-AESIR) team launched a balloon during the total solar eclipse in Rexburg, Idaho. After the umbra’s passage, the balloon experienced unexpectedly high levels of atmospheric turbulence. Video footage taken from the payload displays the conditions, and analysis of flight path data models created from the iridium GPS confirm that unusually violent turbulence occurred. These forces caused the key rings holding the bottom of the parachute to the payload train to rip open; the balloon and parachute flew away and the payloads free fell to the surface from an altitude of 68,301 feet. We hypothesize that the umbra’s passage caused a temperature dip sharp enough to cause a significant pressure differential, creating the ensuing turbulence. Radiosonde data from Montana Space Grant Consortium eclipse balloons and mechanical engineering properties of the key rings will be analyzed. These findings are expected to support our hypothesis and give a better understanding of the specific atmospheric conditions. Future research recommendations include a payload package design to be flown during the next eclipse that includes a suite of instruments to better study the forces behind eclipse induced atmospheric turbulence, in addition to payload connections that can withstand the higher forces experienced in these conditions.