Keep Looking Up
El Cerrito High School sent a balloon up into the sky last week. The beautiful high altitude trip reminds us all to keep looking up!
A note from Elan, the physics teacher at El Cerrito High School:
For those of you curious about the high altitude balloon adventure Wednesday (1/12/22 :)
tl;dr: Enjoy this video edited by the Berkeley Astronomy researcher who helped us, Steve Croft. My favorite part starts at ~8:05 when you can see the moon over the snow-capped Sierras and watch as the camera turns over California to see the Bay Area and Pacific Ocean bathing in sunlight. The balloon pops shortly after 9:35 and you can see footage from our recovery at the end. Unfortunately the GoPro cameras ran out of battery, so we did not get footage of the landing over Sacramento.
The full story:
We launched at lunchtime ~11:30am, and then 8 students and I pursued in a van using GPS from the balloon’s payload to guide us… except the GPS immediately stopped working! So we drove to the area where we thought it was going to land, at the Western Railway Museum about a 45 minute drive northeast of us. We looked up hopefully. To our dismay we saw nothing, so drove around ruefully looking at road debris that might be a wayward space balloon. We were just about to head home (with a possible consolation stop at the Jelly Belly factory) when Lyric exclaimed “it’s back!” The GPS had returned! And the balloon appeared to be moving quickly northward! Very far from us! Had someone picked up the balloon’s payload, with its two GoPros, GPS receiver and Milky Way bar and stepped on it? We weren’t gonna let them get away that easily! After high suspense and drama (and a painful amount of driving), we retrieved the balloon in a park just off of I-5 in SACRAMENTO! It had caught itself in a leafless tree, hanging by its parachute, just high enough off the ground that the freshmen had to jump to reach it. After an obligatory stop at the Davis In-N-Out we returned, exhausted but safe, to El Cerrito High at 6:30pm… The distance from the ground to outer space is roughly the same as the distance between the East Bay and Sacramento. And indeed, it was difficult to tell who had had the more incredible adventure: the space balloon or ourselves.
Keep Looking Up (or Down from Up)!
As much as I like the optics of this, and the ultimate meaning of it, I was stuck at the very start of it: a balloon was sent. up. that balloon can hurt animal life. It is bad for the environment. So I am the baddie, but I won’t ruin your post. JUST DON’T DO IT AGAIN.
I asked the teacher how high the balloon went. He responded “Good question! We’re not sure exactly, but somewhere around 60,000-90,000 feet! That’s 2 to 3 times higher than airplanes fly!”