Super-TIGER is up!!!

Your chance to track a stratospheric balloon in real time

By Diana Lutz

Richard Bose

The Super-TIGER cosmic-ray experiment had a perfect launch Sunday at 9:45 a.m. New Zealand Daylight Time. The enormous balloon that will carry it to the limits of Earth’s atmosphere was stretched out on the ice and then partially filled. (It rounds out nicely as it rises into the stratosphere.) 

As it came up off the ice, the balloon rose directly over the downstream instrument, which was held by a crane on an enormous truck named the Boss, after the polar explorer Shackleton. If the balloon isn’t overhead when it is released, it swings like a pendulum and bashes into the ice. In this case, everything went beautifully; the Boss barely moved, and the balloon lifted the two-ton instrument effortlessly into the sky.

http://youtu.be/2PASEbiH6R4Video of the Super-TIGER launch by Richard Bose

The video was shot by Richard Bose, an electronics engineer in the Department of Physics in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. At the end of the video, you can hear people congratulating Robert Binns, PhD, research professor of physics at Washington University and the principal investigator on the Super-TIGER experiment, which is the work of a team from the California Institute of Technology, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the University of Minnesota and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in addition to Washington University. The flawless launch was carried out by the crew of the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility, the world’s experts in launching stratospheric balloons.

To learn more about the experiment, see Rough Guide to Super-TIGER Watching. 

After an initial bobble, the balloon headed straight west. (To go round the South Pole counter-clockwise, it needs simply to continue to travel due west. This is a Google map version of the balloon track.

The scientists are hoping the balloon will circumnavigate the pole at least twice before it must be brought down. Here is the track at 3:00 p.m. CST Dec. 26. One circuit completed and, fingers crossed, another to go.


To keep an eye on Super-TIGER’s progress yourself, bookmark the tracking page for NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility.

The U.S. scientific long-duration high-altitude ballooning program is funded by NASA, and is directed by NASA-Wallops. The ballooning operations are performed by the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility (CSBF) in Palestine, Tex. The National Science Foundation (NSF) directs the U.S. Antarctic program.

Diana Lutz
Senior Science Editor
(314) 935-5272
W. Robert Binns
Research Professor of Physics
(314) 935-6247
Martin H. Israel
Professor of Physics in Arts & Sciences
(314) 935-6263