With fall approaching, Auburn students feel something in the atmosphere. For members of the Auburn High Altitude Balloon Club, that something includes hand-built weather balloons.
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Students in AHAB spend much of the fall semester designing and building weather balloons. Weather balloons are a type of high altitude balloon which are used to carry instruments into the atmosphere and collect various data. The target data changes depending on the project.
“Our weather balloon is similar to a hot air balloon, but made of latex,” Nicholas Gervais, member of AHAB, said. “When you fill it up with the helium, it is the size of a small car.”
The group designs foam boxes to go along with the balloons. The platforms are equipped with various electronics, including a radio that is hooked up to a GPS and scientific sensors.
“This semester, we are putting light-sensitive film in a box and sending it up,” Gervais said. “We will be able to see what kind of radiation patterns are up there, including UV radiation, I believe.”
The balloons are sent up to an altitude between 80,000 and 100,000 feet, which is considered near-space atmosphere.
This semester, the group is planning the launch for Nov. 3. A back-up date of Nov. 10 has also been scheduled, as weather has to be ideal for a successful send-off. The group will launch the balloon into the air and then track the route. After about an hour, the group will send a signal to the box, which then cuts itself from the balloon and parachutes to the ground. Team members can then analyze the results of the testing.
While the main project of the club is the weather balloon, it also serves as a testing platform for AubieSat. AubieSat 1 is a student-built satellite that was launched into space last year. The launch of AubieSat 2 is in the plans as well. AHAB is a sister program to the AubieSat project.
AHAB is geared toward engineering students, but science students or those interested in such experiments are welcome to join.
“It’s used as a platform for scientific experiments,” Gervais said. “We’re open to others who say, ‘Oh I really want to try this out and see what it is like in the upper atmosphere.’ We can be used as a testing platform. ”
The group meets on Mondays and Wednesdays from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Meetings takes place in Room 210 of Allison.