NASA 'Balloon Campaign' Goes to Australia

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By Ma Evelyn Castino Quilas | May 26, 2014 3:16 PM EST

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the University of Wyoming teamed up with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) in Darwin, Australia for the balloon campaign. This is  aimed at understanding better the effect of volcanic eruption on climate change.

Dubbed as KlAsh (Kelud Ash) experiment, the campaign sends a series of balloons in the air to take measurements of a volcanic trail from Mt. Kelud in Indonesia. The volcano sent small droplets of sulfuric acid composed of ash particles and sulfate aerosol up to 25 kilometers (15 miles) above the Earth's stratosphere when it exploded in February this year.

According to an article from NASA, Duncan Fairlie, a NASA scientist at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and the campaign's principal investigator said, "The purpose is to better characterize particle sizes, composition, and optical properties from a relatively fresh volcanic plume in the stratosphere."

The two-week balloon campaign, which started on May 14, has already successfully launched five small balloon payloads over the Indian Ocean from the bushes of Darwin territory. It is set to last up to May 28.

Scientist Fairlie said the team sampled the volcanic plumes at around 20 kilometers (12 miles) above in all their flights. They have already gathered sufficient data to analyze.

A large helium-filled balloon measuring about 115 feet by 65 feet has already been successfully launched from a remote island, Corroboree, which is located about 60 miles down of Darwin.

Fairlie noted, "The big balloon launch was a huge undertaking, and recovery of the instrument and balloon the next day involved bushwhacking a mile or so off the road in rough terrain in hot, humid conditions."

NASA then turned to the social media Twitter to post update about the experiment. The official NASA account read, "Our balloon campaign studies effects of volcanic eruption," which was accompanied with the hashtag #EarthRightNow and a picture of the balloon aloft.

The Wheeling Jesuit University Center for Educational Technologies claimed the most extreme impact of volcanic eruption is the effect on climate change as large amount of gases and ash are ejected into the atmosphere.

One of the balloon campaign team members Travis Knepp pointed out Mt. Kelud still has the presence of the effect of volcanic eruption in the atmosphere and proximate to the staging area. To launch and recover their balloon instruments (sondes), the team needs a relatively flat and broad land mass within 10 to 15 degrees to the equator to measure the plume.

"Australia provides the best opportunity to meet these criteria," Knepp said.

Read the tweet below:

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Another Big Bang? Huge Explosion on the Sun's Surface Recorded by NASA [Watch Video from YouTube]

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