A gigantic helium balloon carrying the largest solar telescope ever to lift off the earth’s surface has been launched from the Esrange Space Centre in Kiruna, Sweden.
The balloon, holding one million cubic metres of helium, lifted the solar observatory into the sky, reaching a height of 37km.
Only the uppermost part of the balloon was filled with helium; during the ascent the gas expands until it fills the entire balloon.
The solar observatory, better known as Sunrise, was developed and built under the lead of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany.
Over the next five days, polar winds will carry the balloon and the observatory westwards over the Northern Atlantic Ocean, Greenland and Canada.
In these latitudes the sun never sets in the summertime, meaning scientists will be able to monitor it nonstop.
$quot;We expect Sunrise to allow us to discern the finely structured surface of the Sun and the distribution of the magnetic fields with a resolution of up to 35 kilometres,$quot; explains Sami K. Solanki, Director of the MPS and principle investigator of the SUNRISE mission.
That resolution is the equivalent of seeing a single coin from a distance of 100 kilometres.
During the ascent, Sunrise sent its first signals back down to Esrange Space Centre, and the data suggested that all systems are working reliably.